In one of its longest matches of the season, the No. 23 Michigan men’s tennis team fought off No. 25 Penn State for a 5-2 home win. Less than 48 hours later, the Wolverines couldn’t pull off an upset at No. 4 Ohio State on Sunday, losing 7-0.
Against Penn State, Michigan clinched the doubles point as juniors Jathan Malik and Kevin Wong won on a double fault at 4-5, 40-40, and sophomores Alex Knight and Runhao Hua dominated, 6-3, behind Knight’s huge service games.
Malik played No. 1 for Michigan against Penn State, and there was early controversy, with both players disputing the chair umpire’s calls. Penn State senior Leo Stakhovsky became visibly upset after Malik called one of his shots out, and when the umpire confirmed, he approached, screaming and motioning violently with his hands.
On his way back to the service line, he threw a tennis ball at the wall, and Malik capitalized on his opponent’s lack of focus to win the first set, 6-3.
After that, Stakhovsky seemed to move past his early outburst, and he broke Malik at love in the first service game of the second set and cruised to win the set, 6-1. In the third, he broke Malik at 1-1, and again seized momentum, defeating Malik, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.
Junior Davis Crocker obtained the easiest point of the day for Michigan, winning the first set on a volley winner at 5-4, 40-40, and breaking early in the second set for a 6-4, 6-3 win.
At No. 2, Knight won the first four games before dropping serve, but his opponent, Constant De La Bassetiere, fought back to 5-5. At 5-6, De La Bassetiere was awarded a controversial point at 15-30 on a ball that appeared to be wide, forcing a tiebreak in which Knight overpowered his opponent, winning 7-0. Knight fell behind 3-1 in the second set, but broke back when he called a second serve out at 30-40.
Angered by the call, De La Bassetiere and Penn State’s coaching staff argued with the umpire throughout the entire changeover. De La Bassetiere rebounded to knot the match at a set apiece. He broke Knight on deuce point at 1-1 in the third set on an incredible passing shot, and went on to win, 6-7(0), 6-3, 6-2.
Michigan sophomore Carter Lin dropped the first set of the No. 3 match, 4-6, but took a tightly contested second set, 7-5. Lin carried this momentum into the third set, winning the first two games. With a chance to clinch the match for Michigan, serving at 5-4, Lin was broken at love.
At 5-5, 40-40, Lin ran down multiple difficult shots, ending the point with a sliding cross-court passing shot, tumbling into the wall as the ball landed in for a break. Given another chance to serve out the match, Lin hit a big forehand at 40-40, forcing Penn State senior Matt Barry’s shot into the net, clinching the match for Michigan after two hours and 56 minutes.
“(When I was sliding into the wall), all I was thinking was ‘make the ball,’ ” Lin said. “That’s about it.”
Freshman Myles Schalet grinded out a victory to earn the Wolverines their 3rd point and extend their win streak at the No. 6 spot to nine matches.
Sophomore Runhao Hua won the longest match of the day, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (5), ending nearly a half hour after Michigan clinched the match.
“You don’t want to know (what’s going on in my head during a match like this),” said Michigan coach Adam Steinberg on Friday. “The big part is that I want them to stay a team throughout a three and a half hour match.”
The Wolverines dropped the No. 1 and No. 3 doubles matches to Ohio State on Sunday.
Jathan Malik did not play singles against for Michigan. Knight dropped his match at No. 1 singles, 3-6, 1-6, to the nation’s No. 2 player, Mikael Torpegaard.
Crocker dropped his Sunday match, 4-6, 3-6, against Ohio State junior Ralf Steinbach.
Michigan’s win streak at the No. 6 spot ended on Sunday, when Schalet lost to Ohio State’s Martin Joyce, 6-3, 6-3.