After a disappointing loss in its season opener to No. 23 North Carolina State, the No. 17 Michigan men’s tennis team (2-1) headed to the Pacific Northwest in search of its first win of the season. The team bounced back in dominant fashion, notching wins over a pair of undefeated Pac-12 opponents.
Last Friday, Michigan blew the doors off a then-undefeated Washington (2-1) team, going 6-0 in singles matches and 2-0 in doubles. Just two days later, the Wolverines headed south to face off against Oregon (3-1), and once again won the match decidedly, winning four of six singles matches as well as both doubles matches.
In an effort to prevent a repeat of the team’s opener, the Wolverines’ underclassmen stepped up, with sophomore Andrew Fenty and true freshman Ondrej Styler combining 4-0 against the Huskies, winning a singles and doubles match apiece.
Notable was the team’s sweep in doubles matches, which have emerged as Michigan’s strength. The combination of Fenty and junior Mattias Siimar is 3-0 this season and is currently the fifth-ranked doubles team in the country, giving the Wolverines a big edge in the doubles game. Michigan has won the doubles point in all three of its regular season matches this season, and twice clinched the point early.
“It all stems from our energy in doubles,” Michigan coach Adam Steinberg said. “I thought we played really well both days and that set the tone for us. We came out, won the doubles point, got up in some matches in singles and started feeling comfortable. That’s what happened in Washington.”
The team’s usual dominance in the doubles game was accompanied by an especially strong singles performance. Five of the six singles matches were won in straight sets, with Nick Beaty taking care of business with a 6-2, 6-1 performance.
With the strength of their doubles team and a wealth of experience, a return to the NCAA tournament for the fifth straight year seems likely given the wealth of young talent the Wolverines have at their disposal.
There’s Fenty, who had one of the best freshman seasons in Michigan tennis history. The Washington, D.C.-native took home the ITA Freshman of the Year and Big Ten Freshman of Year awards, was voted First-Team All-Big Ten and compiled a 27-7 record in singles play.
Then there’s Styler, the team’s only freshman. Hailing from the Czech Republic, Styler was a force on the junior circuit, reaching a No. 13 world ranking and winning the Junior French Open. While the transition from junior tennis to the college level is always difficult, Styler appears to be transitioning into the game right in time for the Wolverines’ regular season.
Looking ahead, the team will look to build on the momentum from the two wins, heading to the ITA Kick-off Tournament next weekend, where they look to potentially face off against No. 13 Illinois in a preview of what could be an important conference matchup down the road.
“The guys responded really well on the road,” Steinberg said. “These are two very tough teams, and coming off a loss it’s not easy. Especially with the schedule we have, it’s tough every single match, so I know how big it was that we won at Washington and then had a great win yesterday against Oregon.”