Last Saturday, the Michigan men’s tennis team (12-3 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) carried their hot streak into Big Ten play, taking care of business against a solid conference opponent, sweeping Penn State (7-4 overall, 0-1 Big Ten) in a 5-0 blowout.
The match began with the doubles point, which featured yet another win from Michigan’s Andrew Fenty and Mattias Siimar, who have risen up the ITA ranks to become the No. 2 doubles team in the nation. The Wolverines have now captured 12 of their last 15 doubles points, with three of those victories coming against top ten teams in USC, Texas, and Columbia, currently ranked No. 1, No. 4, and No. 7, respectively.
While the team has looked to underclassmen Andrew Fenty and Ondrej Styler for pivotal wins in the past, this time, the team’s depth proved to be the main differentiator, with Michigan winning the No. 3 through No. 6 singles matches all in straight sets.
Particularly of note was the senior Connor Johnston, who put on a dominant 6-0, 6-1 performance against Penn State’s Ismail Saadi. The senior, who coach Adam Steinberg has referred to as the “best fighter in college tennis,” has now won five of his past seven singles contests en route becoming the No. 87 player in college tennis.
After Johnston’s victory, Wolverines won the next three matches, allowing Fenty and Styler to end their matches early, as the match had already been decided. The extra rest put Michigan in a favorable position heading into a doubleheader the next day, as the team went on to run through both Brown (9-4) and Boston University (3-7), not losing a single match in either contest.
Currently, the Wolverines are the second-highest ranked team in the conference, trailing only No. 3 Ohio State. As the only two ranked teams in the Big Ten, all signs point to the conference being decided by the winner of the rivalry. However, Saturday’s win served as a tone-setter, preparing the team for the glut of upcoming conference games that round out the end of the season.
“To go out and start Big Ten play this way is definitely a confidence booster,” Steinberg said. “We believe we can do great things here. We’ve done it against some of the best teams in the country. There are a lot of good teams in this conference, and a win like this gives more and more confidence to the guys.”