After a back-and-forth battle, the Michigan men’s tennis team (6-0 Big Ten) claimed a narrow victory over rival Ohio State (6-1 Big Ten) on Sunday in Ann Arbor.
Michigan came into the day ranked No. 13, with the Buckeyes five spots ahead at No. 8, and the play from both teams certainly reflected the high national ranking that they each hold. The Wolverines’ win marked their first over the Buckeyes since 2001.
The most crucial part of the Michigan victory was the doubles point they earned at the start of the day. The Wolverines would take two out of three of their doubles matches, and it was the work of junior one doubles player Andrew Fenty that kept them alive.
Fenty had a few “circus” shots that brought him and his senior partner Mattias Siimar back from the 3-2 deficit that they found themselves in to ultimately win their match against John McNally and Robert Cash of Ohio State.
Meanwhile, graduate student two doubles player Connor Johnston and his partner, sophomore Ondrej Styler, took a commanding 4-1 lead in their match before Buckeyes Cannon Kingsley and Kyle Seelig came storming back to tie the set-up at four a piece, lengthening the match and saving Ohio State.
All of the Wolverines and Buckeyes who had already finished stood and watched as Johnston and Styler grabbed the all-important 6-4 win to secure the doubles point for Michigan. Senior Nick Beaty and his partner, senior Harrison Brown, dropped their match, but Beaty was present and contributing elsewhere throughout the rest of the day.
The singles matches that took place after Michigan secured the doubles point were extremely competitive almost across the board.
Styler, junior three singles player Patrick Maloney and senior four singles player Mattias Siimar all won their matches to give the Wolverines the edge.
Michigan had a mixed bag of matches, but what stood out the most was the energy and leadership demonstrated by senior three doubles and five singles player Nick Beaty. Beaty lost in both his singles and doubles matches –– both by very narrow margins –– but never lost sight of the ultimate goal. He also lost a heartbreaker in his singles match, but immediately shifted his energy toward motivating and cheering for his team. There was no negativity in his body language or his words, and the rest of his team quickly fed off of it.
There were points where it appeared that the fate of the entire team match would depend on the outcome of Beaty’s single match against Ohio State’s Cash, but he did not shy away from the moment. Losing the first set to Cash, he came back and took the next set, 6-4. Despite Beaty’s apparent motivation, Cash would turn out to be just a bit much for him, returning fiercely to beat him in the third set, again, 6-4.
Ultimately this loss would not matter, as Mattias Siimar won his match on the other side of the Varsity Tennis Center. Michigan’s visibly strong team dynamic ensured they were able to celebrate without reservation, canceling out the noise the Buckeyes had made all day.
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