Taking down a top Big Ten tennis player is an impressive feat for anyone, but especially so for a freshman. And on Sunday, Michigan freshman Connor Johnston showed age wasn’t the number that mattered when he defeated Minnesota junior Felix Corwin, 6-3, 2-6 and 6-1.
“(Johnston) just got here two months ago,” said Michigan coach Adam Steinberg. “To have a win like that was pretty impressive.”
Johnston earned his big win at the Gopher Invitational, where the Michigan men’s tennis team went out with a bang in its final weekend of fall competition. Minnesota hosted four Wolverines who made the trip, along with Boise State, Dartmouth, Drake, Notre Dame, Pennsylvania and Wichita State.
Michigan had a strong presence on both the singles and doubles courts over the course of play, going 11-for-16 and 5-for-8, respectively.
The doubles combinations were steady for the weekend, with junior pair Davis Crocker and Alex Knight playing together, while Johnston combined with junior Carter Lin. Johnston and Lin both had stand-out weekends, making it all the way to the doubles final on day three against Minnesota, but falling in a close 6-4 match. Johnston was the only Wolverine to go undefeated for singles matches.
In the first day of competition, the Wolverines swept doubles play. Crocker and Knight squared off against the Quakers, while Johnston and Lin faced the Broncos. Michigan then matched up against its same opponents for singles and went 3-for-4, with all three wins in straight-sets.
Day 2 saw more mixed results, as the Wolverines faced the Golden Gophers, the Big Green and the Fighting Irish. The team demonstrated 2-for-2 doubles domination, but Knight, Crocker and Lin each picked up a loss in singles. Crocker’s match was particularly close, as he took it to a third set, which ended 6-2 in Minnesota’s favor.
Michigan finished off strong in the final day of the invitational against Minnesota and Pennsylvania. Crocker and Knight defeated the Quakers once again, 6-3, and Johnston and Lin competed in the doubles final. The team cleaned up singles with another 3-for-4 record.
In addition to the many successes in Minneapolis this weekend, senior doubles duo Jathan Malik and Kevin Wong reached the semifinals in the ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships. After winning three straight three-set matches in the doubles main draw, the two fell to Wake Forest in a hard-fought three-set match.
The Wolverines’ performances at both the Gopher Invitational and the National Indoor Championships bode very well for the team as it looks to the winter season, which will kick off in January. The team’s full roster from last year is returning, in combination with strong additions like Johnston.
“We have a lot of momentum going into January, and we have the next two months to prepare,” Steinberg said. “(We) will do everything we can to get ready for a great year.”