A college tennis match typically doesn’t take three hours, but Friday evening against No. 25 Penn State, the No. 23 Michigan men’s tennis team battled even longer than that for a hard-fought 5-2 victory.
The extended effort paid off, as the win increased the Wolverines’ home record to a perfect 10-0.
After a rough start in doubles matches earlier this season, winning the doubles point Friday was crucial to Michigan’s success.
“I really like our doubles lineup now,” said Michigan coach Adam Steinberg. “I’m really confident in all three teams. What we had last year, and even at the beginning of this year, was feeling like we could win at two spots, but the third was a struggle. So now we feel like when we walk on the courts, we can win all three spots, and it’s a great feeling.”
The doubles lineup now features redshirt sophomore Alex Knight and sophomore Runhao Hua at No. 1, juniors Jathan Malik and Kevin Wong at the No. 2 spot and freshmen Myles Schalet and Gabe Tishman at No. 3.
But while the Wolverines rode doubles to great success Friday, it derailed them on Sunday.
Against No. 4 Ohio State, the Wolverines dropped the doubles point and every point after that. The dual was abandoned at 4-0, with the Buckeyes claiming all of their singles wins in straight sets. It was Michigan’s first Big Ten loss of the season.
More often than not, Michigan has secured the doubles point and gone on to win the match. But when the Wolverines drop the doubles point, they lose energy. They lose confidence as well, and those two characteristics have cost Michigan.
Doubles points aren’t the only problem, though. The Wolverines also struggle with matches away from home. All four of Michigan’s losses this season have been racked up on the road. While Ohio State ranks significantly higher than the Wolverines, this problem persists against teams that aren’t powerhouses, including Kentucky and Notre Dame. Other than Ohio State, the only team ranked higher than Michigan to have beaten the Wolverines is No. 17 South Florida.
On the surface, Michigan’s 13-4 record looks impressive. But when considering the two factors that influence the Wolverines’ losses the most, it seems as if they’re simply skirting the edges of a loss at every encounter they have.
Michigan scraped together a win against Penn State, but against Ohio State, the Wolverines completely dropped the ball. They’re playing a dangerous game of relying on two big factors for their success. And if those factors aren’t constant, their success won’t be either.