Andrew Fenty tossed the ball and jumped into a huge serve while his teammates watching intently from the next court over. The sophomore stepped up and shot a backhand approach shot off the return before heading to the net, where he put the ball away on a clean volley. The arena was engulfed in cheers as Fenty threw his racket in the air and was mobbed by his teammates.
Fenty’s victory clinched a 4-3 win for the No. 13 Michigan men’s tennis team (8-1) over No. 9 Columbia (3-1). In doing so, many of the Wolverines had a series of clutch performances.
Fenty took down No. 20 Jack Lee in a back-and-forth match. Fenty edged him out in the first set, 7-5, but Lee came back with a strong performance in the second set, winning, 6-4. With the third and final set of the match tied at three apiece, Fenty pulled away, taking the final three games of the set to clinch the victory for Michigan.
Three other singles matches went down to the final set, with senior Nick Beaty enduring a slugfest of a match against Alex Kotzen. Beaty dropped the tiebreaker of the first set and lost the set, 7-6, but returned strong in the second set, winning 6-4. With the match on the line, the final set went into tiebreaker once again, and in a stroke of tough luck for the Wolverines, Kotzen took the tiebreaker, and the match with it.
The Wolverine’s other senior, Connor Johnston, also pushed through a long match. Johnston crushed opponent Adam Ambrozy, 6-1, in the first set, but Ambrozy came back with a vengeance in the second set, winning, 6-2. In the final set, however, Johnston rolled to a 6-4 win, pushing the match in Michigan’s favor.
Finally, junior Mattias Siimar went down in a hard fought match, losing 4-6, 6-2, 4-6 to Columbia’s Rian Pandole.
Meanwhile, the Wolverines freshman phenom Ondrej Styler coasted to a win, putting away Jackie Tang in straight sets. At the No. 6 singles spot, Michigan sophomore Patrick Maloney went down in straight sets.
With so many close matches on the singles side, once again, it was the Wolverine’s strength in doubles that helped them win. At this point in the season, the doubles point is practically expected, a trend that continued even against one of the strongest doubles teams in the country. The undefeated duo of Fenty and Siimar, who are currently ranked No. 4 in the nation, narrowly took care of business, 7-5, against No. 5 team of Lin and Jackie Tang.
“They’re a tough, tough team to beat,” Michigan coach Adam Steinberg said. “Someone’s going to have to play great to beat them, and they know that. It’s been fun watching them evolve as a team. Some might think the double point doesn’t matter, but we’ve been in a lot of close matches, and as you can see it’s helped us a great deal. With our energy and the way we play, we feel like the doubles point is a huge advantage”
One court over, Johnston and Styler cruised their way to a 6-3 win, solidifying the doubles point in favor of the Wolverines.
With the win, Michigan now has eight consecutive wins since dropping its season opener nearly a month ago, including two wins over top-10 opponents and multiple undefeated teams. The win over Columbia allowed the Wolverines to sweep their weekend trip to the Ivy League, as Sunday’s victory followed an impressive 4-1 win over Cornell on Saturday that was rescheduled from the previous day.
“We had a lot of things thrown at us this weekend,” Steinberg said. “We had a match rescheduled to the next morning, had to get on a plane the next morning, and had a change of venue at Columbia. It doesn’t matter what happens to these guys. We believe we can beat anyone. They don’t care where the match is, what time it is, or who we’re playing. It’s been a really fun start of the season.”