Just 10 minutes into the No. 16 Michigan men’s tennis team’s doubles matches, each Wolverine doubles pair had the upper hand and it appeared that they were going to win at least two of the three matches and clinch the doubles point easily.
But No. 3 Ohio State would not go down without a fight.
Michigan made a point to come out with more intensity than it had all season, and the energy from a packed crowd in the Varsity Tennis Center seemed to be propelling the Wolverines to a victory.
“Every second of every day is about playing for Michigan, playing for each other, playing for something bigger than themselves, with better energy, better enthusiasm,” said Michigan coach Adam Steinberg.
But that kind of fervor couldn’t last forever.
The No. 1 doubles pair of senior Jathan Malik and freshman Connor Johnston jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but the Buckeyes rallied and after a double fault from Johnston, they held a narrow 4-3 lead.
With a strong performance at No. 3 doubles, senior Kevin Wong and sophomore Myles Schalet claimed a 6-4 victory. In the match point, the duo served to its opponent’s backhand and he mishit the ball off the frame, ending the match.
The No. 2 duo finished almost simultaneously, though with a different result. The pair lost its early lead and fell to the Buckeyes, 6-4.
With each team having won one match, Malik and Johnston were left to give their team the doubles point – and the advantage – going into singles play.
With the score tied at four games apiece, Ohio State was up 40-0 and only one point away from breaking the Wolverines’ serve. Malik and Johnston battled back to deuce but ultimately fell short after the Buckeyes watched Malik’s shot sail just long of the baseline.
Ohio State was up 5-4 and serving for the match.
It was a tightly-contested game, reaching deuce once again. The Buckeyes served to Malik, giving him the opportunity to redeem himself. He set his feet in an attempt to hit a deep shot down the line, but once again the ball landed outside of the court.
“We got up on them a little bit and they really fought hard and stayed in there,” Steinberg said. “I thought we could have put them away, especially at one doubles. It got away from us a little bit, but I was happy with the energy and the way they competed.”
Michigan’s momentum from the start of the match had transferred to Ohio State. The Buckeyes ran away with the doubles point, which then set the tone for the rest of the match, which Ohio State won, 4-1.