BY ALEX STEINHOFF
Daily Sports Writer
Published March 6, 2011
Yes, the No. 8 Michigan men’s tennis team had a spring break vacation too. The Wolverines relaxed on the beach, enjoyed 80-degree weather and soaked up the sun — that is, at the price of playing Hawaii on the road.
Michigan started its match in unusual fashion. Instead of playing doubles first, inclement weather in Honolulu forced the Wolverines to play singles first. Leaving singles with a 3-3 tie, the Wolverines found themselves playing for a point that had evaded them the previous eight matches: the doubles point. But with the match on the line, Michigan ended its eight match drought and rallied to win the doubles point and secure the victory on the road in Hawaii 4-3.
“It was a little bit weird playing like that,” sophomore Evan King said. “You start with doubles and kind of work your way in and when you’re going right into singles, you are kind of forced to get off to a better start than you normally would have to, so it was definitely a little bit weird.”
Soon after the match started, Michigan sophomore Chris Cha defeated Dmytro Kovalyov 6-4, 6-1, to secure a point for Michigan at No. 6 singles. Hawaii answered right back as Jeremy Tweedt beat freshman Shaun Bernstein 6-3, 6-3, at No. 3 singles. Freshman Justin Rossi didn’t leave the match tied for long and beat Danilo Casanova 6-4, 6-3, at No. 5 singles.
But Hawaii answered with two victories over Wolverines who had been so successful all season on the singles court. Freshman Barrett Franks lost to Jonathan Brooklyn at No. 4 singles. The loss came after Franks lost a first set handily, but then fought back in the second to push it to a tiebreaker. But Franks’ comeback effort was not enough to push the match to a third set, and he went on to lose just his third singles match of the season, 6-1, 7-6 (5).
Franks’ loss put the match at two points apiece, until senior Jason Jung fell to Leo Rosenberg 7-6 (4), 7-5, in what was a long hard-fought match at No. 2 singles. Jung, who also lost only his third match all year, was unable to break out in either set and beat the No. 2 singles player from Hawaii. Jung’s loss propelled Hawaii to a 3-2 lead, with one singles match left.
King found himself on the court last, with the match riding on his back. If King had lost, the doubles play to come would have been pointless and Hawaii would have already secured the upset.
“I haven’t been in that situation that many times but that’s honestly the reason why you play college tennis,” King said. “To be in a situation that’s pressure filled, where your team counts on you and then to come through in the third set pretty routinely was definitely a fun experience to have.”
But King came back strong after dropping a close first set 5-7, and secured the second and third sets 6-3, 6-1, to beat Dennis Lajola at No. 1 singles 5-7, 6-3, 6-1, to tie the dual match at three.
King’s victory continues his tear pushing his singles record to 9-1 on the year at No. 1 singles. His stellar play also got him Big Ten Athlete of the Week award last week, the second time he’s earned the award this season.
“He’s really grown up before our eyes and I think working hard in practice he’s understanding the connection between what he does on a daily basis and how that connects to his long term tennis and what he does with his teammates,” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said.
King, who saved the match for the Wolverines, entered doubles with a winning record, something only Jung could also claim. King hoped to make his singles comeback worthwhile as he and the Wolverines stepped onto the doubles court last, not having won since the first dual match of the season. But the doubles point was played at the end of the match, which is something Michigan had not seen.
“If you lost eight doubles points in a row and had to win one with the consequences of the match, you would think it would put a lot of pressure on us, but it didn’t seem like our guys played with the burden of a lot of pressure,” Berque said.
Right out of the gate, the No. 3 doubles pair of senior Chris Madden and Chris Cha beat Hawaii’s Daniel Llarenas and David Schuster 8-2. The win marked Madden’s first win all season in singles or doubles, a win that had continued to escape the former two-time MVP since his return against Washington.
Shortly after No. 3 doubles won for the Wolverines, the newly changed No. 1 doubles team of Jung and Bernstein beat Hawaii 8-2. The victory clinched the doubles point, and the victory in the dual match for the Wolverines.
“We played well at two spots and we executed very well and had really good energy to start, and the guys had a sense of urgency and I liked the way they attacked it,” Berque said. “I have to give our guys a lot of credit the way they answered up to that challenge.”
That challenge was to win the doubles point for the first time in eight tries with the match on the line, and Michigan passed that test. Though doubles wasn’t Hawaii’s strength, Berque explained that for the Wolverines to win doubles with the match on the line finally displays the hard-work Michigan had been putting in all season in doubles, and shows the maturity of this young team and their will to compete.
“We knew we had to get it,” King said. “When the match was three all, we had no choice but to win the doubles point and our No. 1 and No. 3 teams came out so fast and got early breaks and big leads early in the match and that was just huge.
“I think it was the urgency more than anything. I don’t think we’re playing better than we usually do, but the urgency was definitely there and it was pretty emotional.”