Zhu showcases talent in pair of wins for women’s tennis

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By Azalea Hinojosa, For the Daily
Published April 6, 2014

The No. 17 Michigan women’s tennis team knew coming into a weekend with matches against No. 11 Northwestern and Illinois that it would be in for a challenge, even at home.

If there were any doubts whether the team would prevail, sophomore Amy Zhu put them to rest.

After taking down both the Wildcats and the Fighting Illini with scores of 4-3 and 7-0, respectively, the Wolverines (7-0 Big Ten, 15-3 overall) stand as the only undefeated team in conference play, and Zhu played a large role in that feat.

Zhu began Saturday’s dual-play match with a powerful performance in doubles play alongside junior Sarah Lee. A couple of powerfully hit strikes from Zhu gave her team an early 2-0 game lead and forced her Northwestern opponents to shout in frustration.

Her hustle didn’t go unnoticed. Fans and fellow teammates acknowledged her performance and cheered her on, calling her by the nickname “Zhu-Zhu.”

Even when she seemed to struggle and there was an obvious shift in momentum, Zhu attempted to save every ball.

Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein watched at the net as Zhu battled on the court, at times guiding her and calling out for her to react to her shot.

“She did a good job because I started just going at her, at the net, and sort of challenging her there,” Bernstein said. “She got herself out of it because she started feeling a little bit uncomfortable and backing up. But she came through in the end.”

As the Wildcats got their first point from a poorly hit ball on Lee’s part, Zhu fiercely answered back with a point for the Wolverines.

Bernstein reacted excitedly, yelling out “Zhu-Zhu so good!”

Zhu earned the final point needed to end the doubles play with a 7-5 game win — the first of Michigan’s four winning points.

Singles play was no different. Rolling through the match, Zhu was the first off the court with an easy 6-1, 6-1 win over her competition.

Sunday’s match saw a slight change in Zhu. For one, the match was held outdoors, and while the weather was mildly warm, sunlight and wind posed some new challenges.

“I was a little off today,” Zhu said on Sunday. “It was one of our first outdoor matches and the conditions were a little different. In the beginning, I was a little nervous and not hitting the ball through.”

Zhu’s frustration became a bit more obvious when the Illini tactics brought on more pressure.

“(Illinois) had different formations,” Bernstein said. “It was kind of tricky because they didn’t play conventional. … They sort of adjusted. A little bit different than what we’d see normally, it kind of messed us up in the beginning.”

The even matchup led to tiebreakers for the sophomore during both doubles and singles play. Through the added obstacles, Zhu again managed to put up a fight and nailed a win.

The Wolverines shut out Illinois, 7-0, bringing their total number of season shutouts to eight.

It’s hard to ignore the level at which Michigan is playing, but it’s even harder to ignore Zhu.