BY ALEX STEINHOFF
Daily Sports Writer
Published April 3, 2011
Yes, there is a Little Brown Jug for men’s tennis. And it had been Michigan’s, until Minnesota came to Ann Arbor on Sunday to take it back.
Despite beating Wisconsin, 5-2, on Saturday in the Wolverines’ first home match since March 11, the Wolverines fell to No. 24 Minnesota, 5-2.
The start Michigan got on Saturday was not indicative of the start it got on Sunday.
After getting broken early, senior Chris Madden and freshman Barrett Franks never seemed to get on track at No. 2 doubles and were the first to drop the eight-game proset. Freshman Shaun Bernstein and sophomore Chris Cha also came up short, after surrendering an early 4-1 to the Gophers No. 3 doubles team. Minnesota had clinched the doubles point and the early 1-0 lead.
“We had control of two of the three doubles matches and we let them slip away,” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “After that, I think it was a momentum turn and they did a really good job of capitalizing on the momentum.”
With no chance at taking the doubles point, sophomore Evan King and senior Jason Jung finished an easy match, during which only one game – a game that went to over six deuces – challenging. King and Jung’s victory gave Jung yet another doubles victory, who now finds himself in sole position of fourth all-time with 85 career wins.
Bernstein quickly forgot the doubles defeat, and as the other matches entered their second sets, he was quickly finishing his match. After a hard-fought first game in the match that lasted over 15 minutes, Bernstein never looked back and went on to win 6-2, 6-0, to tie the dual match for the Wolverines.
“(Bernstein) is really getting better,” Berque said. “He’s tough and very resilient and he is playing good tennis at No. 3. He beat two good players this weekend and is playing well.”
The seesaw battle had begun. Freshman Justin Rossi lost at No. 5 singles in straight sets, giving Minnesota the lead right back. King responded at No. 1 singles by beating his opponent to again tie the match.
King’s win came after just his second loss of the season, and he didn’t look discouraged one bit. The 21st ranked player in the nation took control in the second set, after breaking his opponent late in the first. His dominance was fueled by a combination of hard hitting, smart play and great defense.
Once King tied the match at two, fans at Varsity Tennis Center moved from one side to the other to see the three remaining matches to decide the dual. Jung and Cha found themselves in third sets, each after dropping their firsts.
Franks lost at No. 4 singles in a tough two set match 7-6, 6-3, with Minnesota grasping a 3-2 lead. One match was all the Gophers needed, and with both their No. 2 and No. 6 players up a break in the third, they seemed poised to hoist the Brown Jug.
“Jason and Chris (Cha) were fighting very hard to the very end after coming back from dropping the first sets, and I was proud of the effort I saw,” Berque said. “I just saw Minnesota playing really well on the singles courts.”
Down 5-2 at deuce, Jung hit a beautiful cross-court shot that appeared to be a winner and give him the advantage. But the line judge called the ball out, giving Minnesota match point, a point that would win the dual. Jung hit an ace to send it back to deuce, before hitting another great shot to get the advantage he thought he had two points earlier.
Three points later, Jung found himself against yet another match point, serving for his and the team’s life. After sending the game back to deuce, Jung was up against a third match point. Jung calmly fought it off and won the game, sending the set to 5-3.
“(Jason) was in an absolute battle,” Berque said. “The other guy didn’t give him much of anything, but he had some trouble finishing games. I thought he fought to the very end.”
But Jung’s heroics in the third set were not enough for Michigan to win.
Minnesota took the trophy and their undefeated Big Ten record back to Minneapolis after the 5-2 victory over the Wolverines.
“We’ve got to keep going and can’t hang our heads,” Berque said. “We’re losing to some teams that are at our level, but we just have to keep going in practice and look forward to having a chance to play some of these teams in the postseason.
“There are definitely some positives, but this time we have to have a really short memory.”
On Saturday, though, Michigan played more to its strengths.
The win for the No. 1 doubles team of King and Jung gave Jung his 84th career doubles victory – six wins away from the school record held by three players – propelled him into a tie for fourth all-time in Michigan history. The senior captain will have six dual matches, along with several Big Ten tournament matches, to reach the 90-win plateau.
“I think Jason played his best doubles all year,” Berque said.
The doubles victory for Michigan gave it momentum entering singles.
After coming back to win the first set, Cha shut out his opponent in the second set at No. 6 singles and won 6-4, 6-0. Michigan’s two-point lead was cut to one when Franks fell at No. 4 singles.
But the Badgers wouldn’t get any closer the rest of the dual-match, and the Wolverines rallied off three straight singles victories.
Rossi started the rally and won handily at No. 5 singles. Jung won at No. 2 singles as well to give Michigan the dual victory, while also cruising to his 20th singles victory this season.
“(We have been the ‘hunted’) ever since we beat Duke, and it hasn’t been quite the same,” Berque said. “I think we’ve had enough experience with being ranked high and we’ve seen teams ranked high and low, and at this point we know we just need to play hard and stay committed to what we want to do.”