On Friday night, the No. 20 Michigan men’s tennis team showed up looking for a comeback after a loss against then-No. 19 Harvard the week prior.
With the Wolverines’ second and third doubles teams both losing both 4-6, Michigan struggled to make room against an unranked Illinois. The Fighting Illini won the doubles point over the Wolverines, spelling an early end for the first doubles match.
For Michigan, losing the doubles point was concerning; they rely on their strength as a doubles team, and losing the point was an early blow.
That outcome only fueled the Wolverines’ path to victory. Though they struggled in their doubles matchups, there was no such issue with their singles matches. After giving up the doubles point, Michigan (4-2 overall) swept Illinois (1-5) in the singles and claimed a 4-1 overall win.
“We had a big chip on our shoulder coming out for the singles,” Michigan senior Patrick Maloney said. “We weren’t happy with the doubles result, but it really helped us.”
That optimism was almost tangible on the court, each side building off of each other’s victories to create a momentum that went unmatched by the Fighting Illini. When senior Andrew Fenty won his first set, 6-0, it was the boost both Maloney and sophomore Jacob Bickersteth the drive they needed to claim their respective first sets 7-5 and 7-6.
On the other side of the court, junior Ondrej Styler led in a similar manner, commanding a 6-1 first set followed by a quick second set, which he claimed 6-4.
Sophomore Gavin Young won the final point needed to secure a Michigan victory, battling out a tough win to take his second set. Young ended the night 6-3 and 7-5, giving the Wolverines a much-needed success to boost morale.
“We view our doubles as one of our biggest strengths in our team,” Maloney said. “So, to have a dominant win over a team like Illinois… huge confidence booster. We could’ve had six points on the board right there.”
With the loss of a point they expected to win, the Wolverines used the loss to bolster their confidence in the singles matches.
With the win, Michigan snapped a seven game losing streak against Illinois. However, even after coming away with a victory, it seems that there is a lot to build on.
“We have to play better,” Michigan coach Adam Steinberg said. “If we’re going to be a contender to win championships… to lose the doubles point is tough. That’s the biggest focus now – has to be.”