While all four players from the Michigan men’s tennis team who participated in the Bobby Bayliss Invitational this past weekend had success, it was senior Jathan Malik who made the most waves.
He torched the field in both singles and doubles action on his way to being named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.
Malik excelled in all three days of action at Notre Dame, winning all four of his singles matches and three out of four doubles contests. All seven wins were dominant and came in straight sets. Junior Runhao Hua was also superb, going 4-0 in singles play and earning all-tournament honors.
Despite the individual recognition, however, the highlight of the weekend for Malik was his team’s performance in singles play on Saturday.
Malik, Hua and their teammates junior Davis Crocker and sophomore Myles Schalet did not lose a set all day. They won two matches each to go undefeated in singles play against players from Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Memphis, Marquette and Indiana.
For this feat, Malik gives some of the credit to the Notre Dame tournament coordinators, who lined the Michigan players up on four courts, allowing them to play simultaneously, side by side.
“We managed to bounce off each other with positive energy quite a lot,” Malik said. “Even when one of us finished, I’d see Myles (Schalet) or Davis (Crocker) supporting me, watching my match.”
Though the Fighting Irish were gracious hosts, Michigan players were not forgiving to Notre Dame on the court, posting a 6-1 record against them.
The conditions were extremely windy all weekend, which Malik said worked in his favor — he made good use of the lob game and played the wind to his advantage.
“I think I adapted quite well to a lot of the wind pangs in different directions,” Malik said. “I felt like I hit my kick serve pretty well; it kicked up quite well.
“A lot of the points were, you could say, won ugly or won beautifully because the wind would blow the balls in that were going out, and it was a bit of a tussle.”
Malik said along with his ability to play smart tennis in windy conditions, he was successful because he was able to change gears at the right time, going from “Gear 5 to Gear 6” at vital moments during his matches.
Now, Michigan wants to keep its momentum up. But it doesn’t have to wait until next weekend’s ITA Midwest Regional Championships in Columbus to play the high level of tennis it played this weekend.
“The key will be keeping the confidence up from what we had (this weekend),” Malik said. “And again, playing with each other, and using each other to improve every day. It’s great because I have some of the best tennis players in the country on my team, and they push me every day.”