Coming into Sunday, Myles Schalet had not lost a doubles match since the end of February. Playing with freshman Andrew Fenty, the team leader in both singles and doubles wins, the duo was expected to set the stage for the Wolverines with a win over No. 15 Illinois.
Instead, Schalet and Fenty were the first to lose their match, giving up an early 3-2 lead to lose, 6-4. It wasn’t their best tennis, and the rest of the team followed suit, with poor doubles play by No. 20 Michigan (13-6 overall, 4-3 Big Ten) giving the Fighting Illini (13-6, 7-0) an early lead from which the Wolverines were never able to come back.
This made winning singles matches all the more important. But Schalet still looked sluggish at the beginning of his match and quickly fell behind, 2-5, in the first set. While some would have let a doubles loss and an early deficit get to their head and hurt their play for the rest of the match, Schalet is no stranger to these situations. Friday against Northwestern, he lost the first set and faced a match point down 3-5 in the second set and came back to win.
Sunday’s match ended in a similar fashion for Schalet. He went on to win the last five games of the first set and won the second set in a tiebreak to give Michigan its second and final singles point.
“I trust myself, and I always keep fighting and competing,” Schalet said. “I’m just trying to take care of my service game and get early leads when they are serving so I can get myself an opportunity to break.”
Schalet used the support of his teammates to get back into his match — and eventually win it. When he was down and noticeably upset with his play, his teammates continued to encourage him. Once Schalet turned it around and took the lead, the rest of the team rallied around him, and he did the same for them. While the Wolverines ended up losing, seeing their captain come back motivated them. Freshman Patrick Maloney, who was the only other player to win a match, played with a similar intensity.
“One of the ways I’m always able to get back is because of the way we play as a team,” Schalet said. “My teammates are always there, and we’re playing together. I’m not playing by myself out there, so that helps a lot.”
But while Schalet was able to bail himself out by improving his play as the match went on, he said he wanted to start matches playing his strongest tennis.
“I have to get better at starting matches better,” Schalet said. “I can’t rely on me coming back every time because a better player is just going to get on me.”
Added Michigan coach Adam Steinberg: “I think he needs to focus a little better through the match, but when he gets down he gives everything”
While Schalet was not playing at his best early on in matches this weekend, his ability to fight and his drive helped him put losses behind him and lead the team by doing what he does best — winning points.