At the Big Ten Singles and Doubles Championship over the weekend, expectations were high for the Michigan men’s tennis team. Last year’s championship in East Lansing saw the duo of then-freshman Harrison Brown and now-graduated senior Davis Crocker take the Big Ten title in doubles play. At last week’s ITA Midwest Regional Championships in South Bend, Ind. the doubles pairs of freshmen Andrew Fenty and sophomore Mattias Siimar, as well as junior Connor Johnston and senior Gabe Tishman, rode two victories each to the quarterfinals, while Fenty made the quarterfinals again in singles play after earning four wins.
“I think the guys are ready to go. They are deep into the fall now,” said Michigan coach Adam Steinberg. “They’ve competed, played and practiced for two months so we should be playing at a really high level right now.”
The tournament also provided the opportunity to test out some new combinations.
“We switched up our doubles teams so that is the one unknown area right now,” said Steinberg. “They really haven’t played together very much so that will be interesting to see.”
Both doubles teams, comprised of Tishman and sophomore Harrison Brown, as well as Johnston and freshman Patrick Maloney, earned two wins apiece after three rounds of round-robin play.
“I haven’t really played with (Tishman) too much but that was actually a lot of fun out there,” Brown said after an 8-2 win alongside Tishman in the first round of doubles play on Friday. “We both bring a lot of energy. He likes the forehand side and I like the backhand side, so it’s pretty much perfect.”
Expectations were similarly high for singles play. “We want to take home the title. We want number one,” Tishman said. “We had an okay tournament last weekend but we want to come back to our home court and show the Big Ten what we are capable of.”
Despite strong performances from each of the four who participated in the singles tournament, the Wolverines ultimately fell short of those expectations. Tishman, Johnston and Maloney each made runs to the quarterfinals before being eliminated, logging hard-fought wins in the rounds of 32 and 16. Harrison Brown, who said he had hoped to make a deep run after being unseeded, bowed out in the round of 16 after a loss to Iowa’s Will Davies. Third-seeded Dominik Stary of Northwestern went on to take the singles title Sunday afternoon.
Although they didn’t walk away with a title this weekend, the Wolverines, especially the underclassmen, felt they came away with a better understanding of their competition. “It’s good for them to get this experience to play because they haven’t seen the conference as much,” Steinberg said.
“It’s great for them to see what they’ll be up against … in the spring, so that’s what I like about this tournament.”
Added Tishman: “We have a young team, with (Schalet) and I as the senior captains and they’re really adapting well … This is Michigan, so we’re not satisfied with anything but a win. We’re really looking to become a family and do something special this year.”