On Friday night, the No. 12 Michigan men’s tennis team was given a run for its money in Madison against unranked Wisconsin. After winning the doubles point, singles points were tough to come by, but the Wolverines (6-2 Big Ten, 17-4 overall) came through with just enough to win the match, 4-3.
Throughout Big Ten play, doubles points had been a struggle, but Friday, Michigan pulled away in two heavily contested matchups at the No. 2 and No. 3 spots. At No. 3, senior Alex Knight and freshman Harrison Brown battled to a 6-4 win while another senior-freshman pairing — veteran Runhao Hua and Mattias Siimar — sealed the doubles point with a tough 7-6 (7-5) win.
“(Harrison) Brown has been a big lift for us in doubles,” said Michigan coach Adam Steinberg. “He’s played very, very well and we’re figuring the doubles point out.
“We were losing the doubles point consistently. You know, it’s frustrating for everybody. So now, we’re starting to turn it around. We’ve won a few in a row and we’re starting to play the right way. We’re playing much more aggressive. It just feels a lot better out there.”
But the Badgers’ (3-5, 11-10) strong efforts didn’t wane after the high-octane doubles matches.
The Wolverines quickly found themselves in a 2-1 hole, with losses at No. 2 and No. 3 singles by Hua and Siimar, 6-4, 6-0 and 6-2, 6-0, respectively.
But it was only a matter of time before Michigan’s senior leaders stepped on the gas pedal, as their experience paid off and allowed them to cruise to three straight points.
The run started with Davis Crocker at the No. 6 singles position, who won, 6-4, 6-3. Soon after, Carter Lin, the Wolverines’ “rock,” as Steinberg has called him, brought in a tough victory at No. 5 singles, 6-4, 7-5.
“(Carter Lin and Davis Crocker) played great. I thought that was one of Carter’s best matches,” Steinberg said. “He served incredibly well and (Crocker) played a tough player that makes a lot of balls. So those were two really bright spots that got us on the board quickly.”
Undoubtedly, the toughest point came at No. 1 singles from the highly-touted Knight. After splitting the first two sets, Knight found himself defending two match points at 2-5, 15-40. However, Knight eventually tied the set at 6-6, forcing a third set tiebreak in which he prevailed, clinching the match for the Wolverines, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5).
“We just escaped with one. I mean, Alex Knight saved us,” Steinberg said. “(He) was a great senior and just wasn’t playing his best tennis but fought through it. He really won the match for us.
“I told the guys, you know, sometimes you’re not going to play your best. But when you come out with a win, it’s a sign of a really good team.”
What was supposed to be a two-match weekend for Michigan ended up becoming one, as the team’s trip to Minnesota was postponed due to poor weather travel conditions. The Wolverines will look to carry the momentum into next weekend with home matches against Iowa and Nebraska on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.