The Michigan men’s tennis team failed to qualify for the ITA National Team Indoor Championship, despite a stellar performance from their knight in shining armor.
Senior Alex Knight that is, with his shining armor being the Michigan tennis gear he donned in Chapel Hill, NC Saturday and Sunday, where he upset North Carolina’s No. 3-ranked William Blumberg in a three set thriller, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1. But his efforts proved to be insufficient against No. 3 North Carolina.
The No. 17 Wolverines (3-1) split their ITA kick-off duals this weekend, sweeping No. 20 South Carolina (5-1), 4-0, Saturday morning, before falling to the host Tar Heels (5-0), 4-2, the following afternoon.
Although the team failed to reach their goal of qualifying for the ITA National Team Indoor Championship, they found a silver lining in their performance.
“We got a win over a great South Carolina team, and that’s a win we definitely needed,” Knight said.
Against the Gamecocks, Michigan dictated the pace of play, won with ease, and advanced into the tournament’s finals. As expected though, the next dual against the Tar Heels proved to be more difficult.
“We had an opportunity to knock off the No. 3-ranked team in the country and we came close,” Knight said. “We beat a guy who was up a break in the third and we had a few other guys who had some close matches so we built some confidence and it showed that we can play with anyone in the country.”
And Knight showcased that confidence Sunday against Blumberg. After playing each other neck-and-neck the first two sets, Knight pulled away in the final set by staying resilient and sticking to his gameplan.
“I just kept playing my game and looking for it,” Knight said. “I had opportunities in the second and I knew that if I kept on it I’d have chances to win.”
Unfortunately for the Wolverines, their other singles players didn’t fare as well, exemplified by senior No. 20 Runhao Hua falling to the unranked Benjamin Sigouin of North Carolina. Aside from Knight, no other Michigan player won a singles match.
A bright spot for the Wolverines was their doubles play — thanks again in part to Knight. He and his partner, Hua, rolled to a 6-4 set victory on Sunday, and were on the path to winning Saturday before their match was cut short, as their teammates had already secured a doubles victory.
Michigan’s chemistry was evident all weekend, as the squad took the doubles point in both duals. For the team, its camaraderie is a result of its behind the scenes work in the preseason.
“This team has worked harder than any team I’ve been on in my five years here at Michigan, and all the work we put in is showing,” Knight said. “But we’re not there yet. And the good thing is we know that.”
And following the singles performance on Sunday in which the Wolverines could only claim one victory, they will be hard at work preparing for the long season ahead.