The Michigan men’s tennis team’s Saturday doubleheader against Columbia and Toledo opened up opportunities for its younger players, and they took full advantage of them. Freshmen Myles Schalet, Gabe Tishman and Maks Tekavec proved themselves with singles wins for the Wolverines in the 5-2 victory against the Rockets.

Tekavec, who hails from Slovenia, won his first singles match in a Michigan jersey.

“Maks’ first win, it’s always awesome to see,” said Michigan head coach Adam Steinberg. “You know, he’s had it tough. He had surgery in December, and he’s been trying to get back. He’s had some setbacks, so I was just happy he was playing.”

Tekavec earned his 6-3, 6-3 win in the No. 5 singles match.

“We just put them in how we felt they should be,” Steinberg said. “We tried to push Maks a little bit and say, ‘Hey, you’re going to play a little bit higher.’ ”

Schalet won 6-2, 6-1, in the No. 4 singles match against Toledo, adding to his earlier 6-2, 7-5 win in the No. 6 singles match against the Lions. His wins were crucial in meets where Michigan’s top players faltered. Redshirt sophomore Alex Knight, who holds the Wolverines’ highest singles win percentage this year, lost both of his No. 1 singles matches, while sophomore Carter Lin had to retire against Toledo in the No. 2 match due to an apparent injury.

“Tennis-wise, I still want to work on my serve,” Schalet said. “I mean, every shot, I can still improve. But the most important thing is that we’ve done a great job and we’re getting better.”

Tishman rounded out the Toledo match with a 6-2, 6-2 win, making his mark on the match as well.

In the morning meet, Schalet and Tishman teamed up to win their doubles match together against Columbia. Later in the day, they held a commanding lead against the Rockets, but the match went unfinished after their teammates on the first and third courts won just before they wrapped up.

Even though this is their first year at Michigan, Schalet and Tishman have a history of dominating the court together.                                              

“Before we came to college, we played for about three years together in juniors,” Tishman said. “Every national open we played, we got some pretty good results. I think we got up to No. 2 in the country at one point. So we’ve been playing for a while.”

Coming from playing junior tennis, freshmen have to make the switch from focusing on their own individual rankings to playing as a team. Frequently in college tennis, one matchup will go unfinished in every meet because the team has already won, so the final singles or doubles match doesn’t matter.

“College is much more intense,” Schalet said. “Because you’re playing for your team, and it’s a different atmosphere.”

That atmosphere is very team-centric. After almost every point, players would look over to their teammates on a different court and shout words of encouragement. But, to the Wolverines, there is still room for improvement.

“I think we just need to work on our team dynamics, really,” Tishman said. “Our coach really enforces this sort of team play, supporting everyone, and that’s just a big transition from juniors, where we’re playing for ourselves. We did a great job of that today and this morning, so we just have to keep that going.”

Added Schalet: “Everyone needs to still improve at playing for each other and connecting (with their teammates). It’s really tough against really good teams, and that’s where we’re going to make a big jump in the next couple weeks.”

While the freshmen admit that there are definitely things to improve upon, they proved they can rise to the occasion when their upperclassmen falter. And on their path to development, that was still certainly a step in the right direction. 

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