After last weekend’s disappointing season-opening tournament at the Napa Valley Tennis Classic, the Michigan men’s tennis team made a concerted effort to press the reset button. In two weekend tournaments — the Battle in the Bay Classic in San Francisco and the Farnsworth-Ivy Plus in Princeton — it showed.
“We went back and met as a team and had to really recharge and restart, get back to who we are as a team and what tennis is all about,” said Michigan coach Adam Steinberg. “The guys performed well this weekend, and it was a step forward for us, for sure.”
Across the two tournaments, Michigan singles players won 13 of 23 matches and doubles pairs won 4 of 7, through midday on Sunday. Three additional singles matches went unreported. Such were the positive results that Steinberg was looking for in his team.
No player made a bigger statement than freshman Ondrej Styler. Playing in his first collegiate tournament, Styler advanced through four rounds, all the way to the finals.
“For Ondrej to play as well as he did was a terrific effort,” Steinberg said. “It was something we needed to jumpstart us. To do that in a tough, big environment with a lot of great teams — USC, TCU, Stanford, Cal — beating those guys, he did tremendous.”
The highly-touted recruit out of Prague showed both skill and determination on the court. In his first match, Styler persevered through two tiebreakers, winning, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4). He later advanced to the finals on the heels of another dramatic tiebreaker before ultimately falling to USC’s Brandon Holt, 6-2, 6-4.
Across the country at the Farnsworth-Ivy Plus in Princeton, the duo of juniors Harrison Brown and Kristofer Siimar won their doubles tournament, posting a 3-0 record. After winning their opening match, 8-3, the pair never looked back.
“We ca me out with a lot of energy and enthusiasm,” Brown said. “For me, I’ve really improved my mental game. I feel as if this tournament wasn’t as tough for me compared to the others from last year.”
While the official collegiate season doesn’t kick off until January, participating in tournaments offers several benefits for the Wolverines, among them competitive gameplay and an opportunity to work on certain skills. Specifically, Steinberg wants his players to come together as a team, buying into the importance of coherence and collectivity.
When it comes to formulating a team culture, Brown can already sense a notable difference in this year’s coming faster than that of yesteryear.
“I have a really good feeling about this group of guys,” Brown said. “We’ve come out of the summer a lot stronger compared to last summer. We have the ability to make a big impact on the national stage.”
Making such an impact and winning championships is certainly the end goal for Michigan. Steinberg insists that winning is inevitable so long as a strong team foundation is first in place.
“Right now, we’re trying to just develop,” Steinberg said. “We talk about it everyday. It’s not the most exciting thing, but trying to develop a championship culture in our program in every way is our goal. We don’t talk about rankings and championships right now. Just a big culture, because now we’re just trying to get better.”