Tennis trio exhibits skill and toughness

Monday, January 18, 2016 - 5:31pm

Ronit Yurovsky clinched an overall singles victory for Michigan against Tennessee.

Ronit Yurovsky clinched an overall singles victory for Michigan against Tennessee. Buy this photo
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While this weekend’s Michigan Invitational was technically just a tuneup for next weekend’s regular-season opener, the Michigan women’s tennis team’s trio of junior Ronit Yurovsky, sophomore Alex Najarian and freshman Brienne Minor played like it was anything but against Tennessee.

In all of the singles matchups between the 14th-ranked Wolverines and the Volunteers, leads evaporated and deuce points went either way. As the madness ebbed and flowed, these three Michigan standouts found ways to get wins.

Yurovsky, who was named All-Big Ten last season, fell into an early hole in her singles match against Tennessee’s Eve Repic. Facing a deficit and having made numerous unforced errors, Yurovsky looked out of sorts and out of sync.

Then, Yurovsky surfaced as she served her way to a 6-0 second-set win before pulling out a 6-3 third-set win to clinch the match and seal an overall singles victory for Michigan.

“We all had slow starts,” Yurovsky said. “We all had that fight to get back into the match. It is nice to have all those girls playing by your side … and to get points for the team.”

With a seasoned veteran like Yurovsky setting the tone for a comeback, that spirit clearly rubbed off on Minor.

Minor, a newcomer to the team, played with a sense of composure and confidence in her first set, come-from-behind victory. Minor, down 5-4 with the game score tied at 30-30, laced a backhand shot down the line that nestled itself within the white chalk. That shot a graceful but powerful backhander proved to be the much-needed momentum boost that Minor needed.

While she went down again, this time 6-5, Minor quickly rallied to send the set to a tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, it was a painless win for the true freshman as she won, 7-2. With a set victory in hand, Minor never looked back, dictating the play with her serve and groundstrokes, and winning the clinching set, 6-3.

“Usually when I am down, I just think about the team and that I need to pull this win out for the team,” Minor said. “I needed to make (the team) my number-one priority.”

As Yurovsky and Minor labored for wins, more drama unfolded on Najarian’s court. The sophomore, an All-Big Ten selection last year, had to channel all she had in order to fend off a valiant Volunteer challenge.

Najarian, after a 7-6 first-set victory, ran into a bit of trouble in the second set. After a string of unforced errors and trouble dealing with her opponent’s left-handed serve, she found herself on the brink of having to play a third set.

“I knew I had to keep my energy up and not let her dictate the points as much, which led to me being down,” Najarian said. “She was hoping I was going to miss, and I just tried to take control.”

And take control she did. Najarian reasserted her service game, becoming more comfortable with her opponent’s serving and notching a string of winners to secure a 7-5 set victory.

Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein, who traversed much of the tennis facility throughout the day as she sought to keep an eye on all of her players, was happy with what she saw in the comeback victories.

“The matches are long, and you have to be able to keep your foot on the pedal,” Bernstein said.

While Yurovsky, Minor and Najarian didn’t cruise past their opponents, they were able to find the right gear at just the right time.