The No. 6 Michigan men’s tennis team continued its streak of dominance with a 4-0 win over Purdue on Saturday. But within the excellence that led to yet another shutout match, something stood out. Something new.
Two players who previously hadn’t played much — freshmen Patorn Hanchaikul and Will Cooksey — both shined. Cooksey was paired with graduate student Nick Beaty, and the duo secured a doubles win in a dominant 6-1 fashion. And while Hanchaikul’s match was called off after the first set due to the Wolverines having already secured the victory, he showed tenacity and promise in his season debut.
And throughout these strong showings from the freshmen, those on the team not playing made their voices heard as they cheered for — and with — their teammates on the court.
“I’m sure they’re tired of hearing it from me, but (playing for each other), that’s our identity,” Michigan coach Adam Steinberg said. “So that’s what we emphasize on a daily basis.”
That support continued into the singles matches. On court six, Hanchaikul battled in his first appearance of the season. After dropping the first two games, he fought back, forcing the set into a tiebreaker and ultimately winning. Hanchaikul didn’t get to finish his match as the Wolverines secured the win before his second set began. But throughout his comeback, the support of his teammates was abundant.
“When somebody goes in who hasn’t played much like Patorn as a freshman it helps them so much to be around that team environment,” Steinberg said. “And you can tell the guys really helped him through the tiebreaker.”
It’s not just the young players that feel the support of their team — it’s the leaders, too.
Playing singles on the court adjacent to Hanchaikul, senior Andrew Fenty got off to a slow start. But he too powered back, winning his first set in a tiebreaker as well.
“Everyone was winning. And I was like ‘I gotta win,’ ” Fenty said. “Just not letting my teammates down, just keep competing, just trying to help us out.”
Michigan is a team that plays for each other, and as it showed Saturday, it does so well.
As Hanchaikul battled, his teammates led cheers based around his name and cheered louder than they did for any other matchup.
But that’s just part of the team’s culture. Steinberg’s expectation is that seniors will guide their younger teammates the same way their own former teammates guided them.
And when a team plays for each other and underclassmen follow suit, successes like the Wolverines’ current 12-game win streak emerge.