After all ranked players were eliminated in the qualifying draw at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) All-American Championship in Tulsa, Okla. last weekend, the Michigan men’s tennis team was looking to rebound.
Led by a dominant doubles performance from senior Andrew Fenty and sophomore Nino Ehrenschneider, the Wolverines did just that at the ITA Midwest Regional Championship in East Lansing, Mich. Five of the nine singles players reached the round of 16, and two of the five doubles pairs made it to the quarterfinals with Fenty and Ehrenschneider winning the title.
“When Nino and Andrew are right mentally, they’re unstoppable,” Michigan coach Adam Steinberg said. “Everyone was definitely feeding off their energy all week.”
Fenty’s powerful returns and Ehrenschneider’s strong presence around the net proved to be insurmountable for opposing teams. The pair won the doubles title, defeating the No. 1 seeded Justin Boulais and Robert Cash from Ohio State in the final.
This win keeps Ehrenschneider’s undefeated career doubles record intact — a testament to his feel for the game and versatility, as he played with four different partners last season.
Now, with former Big Ten Player of the Year Fenty as a mentor, his potential for growth is immeasurable.
“Playing with someone who has played at the highest level is really good for Nino,” Steinberg said. “Andrew’s sort of a calming presence for him, in a sense.”
Fueled by their dominance, the other Wolverines also put together impressive performances. The duo of redshirt freshman Gavin Young and sophomore Jacob Bickersteth also strung together a run, making it to the quarterfinals before losing 8-5 to the ninth seed from Illinois.
Young was particularly impressive in his composure on the court. When combined with Bickersteth’s steady poise and dangerous forehand, the duo was able to challenge almost anyone at the tournament.
“Gavin hasn’t played too many doubles matches, but his chemistry with Jake was great,” Steinberg said. “This weekend was definitely a confidence booster for him.”
Michigan put together notable performances in the singles bracket as well. Junior Ondrej Styler made it to the semifinals before being eliminated by eventual OSU finalist James Trotter.
Nursing a previous wrist injury, Styler put together a resilient quarterfinal match, mustering a tenacious 7-6, 3-6, 7-6 victory.
“This is Ondrej’s first singles tournament since last May,” Steinberg said. “He came out not fully knowing how he’d feel, and he did great.”
Styler, however, couldn’t continue his semifinals match due to continued pain in his wrist. Even though he had to forfeit, Steinberg remains optimistic for the First Team All-Big Ten nominee’s return.
“The main goal is to keep him healthy the whole season,” Steinberg said. “I think two, three weeks down the line and he’ll look at this tournament as a big win for him.”
The success wasn’t shared across the board for the Wolverines, however; four of the nine singles players lost their first round match. Freshmen Alexander Zederbauer and Patorn Hanchikul lost their consolation match as well, a testament to the team’s relative youth and inexperience.
Still, this weekend served as a much-needed rustbuster for Michigan. Even though the results in the singles bracket were a mixed bag, many players used the opportunity to regain confidence on the court once again.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Steinberg said. “I’d like to see some more aggression in our singles play. But with a lot of guys coming off injuries and finding their groove again, we’re looking forward to the next two months.”