No longer in his first year, Mattias Siimar proved his growth and experience this past week at the ITA All-American singles tournament in Tulsa, Okla.
Playing against the nation’s cream of the crop, the sophomore finished 4-2 on the week, playing six matches in as many days.
“For (Siimar), the more tennis the better,” said Michigan coach Adam Steinberg. “He just loves playing, so he got to play a ton. So I’m sure he’s thrilled about the whole experience.”
The first two days of the tournament, Siimar was forced to play three matches to qualify for the main draw. After comfortably winning the first Monday, he looked as if he was struggling early in his second match, suffering a 6-0 loss in the first set before turning on the afterburners and winning the next two, 6-1, 7-5.
“(Siimar), like I said, loves tennis,” Steinberg said. “He loves to compete. He’ll never give up. He believes in himself. So when he loses a set 6-0, he will not fade away for sure. He’s going to come back. He’s always been like that; he’ll always be like that. So I wasn’t surprised that he figured out and let that set go in his mind.”
Though exhausted, he followed that win with another on the same day to get out of the qualifying rounds, this time in straight sets.
“(Siimar’s) goal was to qualify and get into the main draw,” said Steinberg. “I don’t think he cared if he played at three in the morning, two matches. He wanted to make it so bad, so he was motivated. And he’s in good shape. He can play those matches.”
His toughest test came in the first round of the main draw on Thursday, when he played nationally-ranked No. 16 Aleksandre Bakshi of Oklahoma. Siimar dominated the first set, 6-1, before losing the next two sets, 6-3 each.
“He won the first set easy and was up early in the second set then lost his focus a little bit,” Steinberg said. “When you do that against those top players, then all of a sudden you’re in a bad hole that you didn’t think you’d be in.”
“In the big picture of things, I think it’ll help (him) as he goes along because he’ll be prepared to play with the number one and two at the University of Oklahoma right there,” added Steinberg. “Even though he lost, it’ll help his confidence.”
Siimar finished the weekend in the back draw, winning his first match before losing Saturday in the consolation round of 16, marking a winning record for the underclassman who is bound to be one of the top players in the lineup when team competition rolls around in the winter.
“He lives and breathes (tennis),” Steinberg said. “He wants to get better and when you have guys like that, it’s always positive and they always improve.”