BY ALEX STEINHOFF
Daily Sports Writer
Published February 26, 2011
On Saturday, the Michigan men’s tennis team traveled to face the No. 6 Duke Blue Devils in Durham, N.C. Earlier this season, then-No. 14 Duke swept the Wolverines in a match that started the ITA Kick-Off Weekend for each team. Michigan lost this match 7-0, the first time it had been swept in three years. But when the Wolverines left Durham this time, they left with a 4-3 victory.
The Wolverines started the day off by losing the doubles point once again, yet it was not lost without a fight. The modified Wolverine doubles lineup won at No. 2 doubles with sophomore Evan King and freshman Barrett Franks 8-3 for the first time since Jan. 15 against Western Michigan.
But senior Jason Jung and freshman Shaun Bernstein fell at No. 1 doubles, 9-8, to the rookie pair of Henrique Cunha and Reid Carlton, who is the No. 9 doubles team in the country.
Despite the loss, Michigan was the closest it has come to winning the doubles point, something they haven’t won since the first dual-match of the season.
“It seems that lately we’ve had one team that plays really well and one team that plays in a disappointing way, so it’s a little frustrating, but we feel like we’re getting closer and closer,” Berque said.
The modified lineup sent senior Chris Madden down to No. 3 doubles with his partner from last year, sophomore Chris Cha. The changes also split up the ranked pair of King and Jung, who played No. 1 together until today.
As singles started, the Wolverines found themselves down 1-0 once again, a position that has become all too familiar for them this year. Madden started off singles play falling at No. 4 to Jared Pinsky 6-2, 6-2. Madden, though, made his first singles appearance of the season and hopes to make further contributions. Madden’s loss put Michigan into a 2-0 hole in the match before freshman Justin Rossi won at No. 6 singles 6-3, 6-2 over David Holland.
Evan King followed suit beating No. 6 Carlton 6-3, 6-2, in what was King’s biggest victory of the season. Carlton, Duke’s top doubles and singles player, was no match for King; he disposed of him in straight sets.
“I don’t know, this might be my best college win,” King said. “But we beat No. 6 Duke and I’m extremely pumped up about that.”
King’s victory knotted the match at 2, with three matches still on, each of them in a third set. At this point in the match, it was not only best two-out-of-three in terms of matches, but in terms of sets. Jung, Bernstein, and Franks, Nos. 2, 3, and 5 respectively, found themselves playing in pivotal third sets.
Bernstein was the first one off the court, but the result was not the one he had hoped for. Bernstein fell to Fred Saba 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, putting Duke up 3-2. One point away from victory, Duke needed to win one of the remaining matches. But with a big lead building in the third set for Franks, Michigan was close to tying the match. It wasn’t long until Franks completed his comeback versus Luke Marchese 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, putting all the pressure on Jung.
“I kind of sensed that it was going to come down to my match,” Jung said. “I’ve been there before and from experience I knew what I had to do.”
After dropping the first set, Jung quickly recovered to win 6-2 in a fast second set. With the momentum rolling, Jung quickly broke Chris Mengel from Duke, to take a 2-1 lead. After that break, Jung held serve to push his lead to 3-1. As the set continued, Jung held serve every time and won the set 6-4, winning the match 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, and winning the dual match for Michigan 4-3.
“We were all really excited,” Jung said. “To come back and beat a really good team is something really special.”
Jung’s comeback in his match mirrored the team’s comeback efforts in the dual. After dropping the doubles point to a top-10 team on the road, Michigan fought back to upset the Blue Devils 4-3, its first win over a top-10 team in over a year. Jung and Franks, themselves, also fought back in singles to upset their opponents. The up-hill battles that Michigan won, both in the match and individually, have been the story of its season.
“It’s pretty uncanny that we’ve been able to beat this many top-25 teams while still losing the doubles point, but we’re working really hard at it,” Berque said. “I think we’re going to break free sometime soon here.”
Despite falling behind in almost every match this season, Michigan has come back to win five of them, improving their record to 6-3. This comeback has been reminiscent of non-conference season that has continued to bring good fortune for the Wolverines, as they have now knocked off five ranked opponents, the last two coming on the road.
The Wolverines look to take the confidence from this match on the road once again, as the team travels to Honolulu to play Hawaii over Spring Break.
“The flight would have been a ton longer if we had lost the match today,” King said “It will make that nine-hour flight just a little bit better.”