For the 14th straight time, the Michigan men’s tennis team beat Michigan State, and it did so without dropping a single set. The Wolverines improved their home record to 4-0 with a dominant 7-0 win over their in-state rivals, in front of a packed Varsity Tennis Center. Michigan has yet to drop an individual match at home this season, winning all four contests, 7-0
Michigan thoroughly controlled doubles action, as its No. 2 and No. 3 doubles pairs earned 6-1 victories, while the No. 1 doubles match was abandoned at 5-2 Michigan.
Redshirt sophomore Alex Knight played at No. 1 singles for just the second time of his career. Knight took the first set, 6-4, getting a clutch break at 5-4 to seal the set. In the second set, with both players serving well, Knight and his opponent, Michigan State junior Mac Roy, continued to struggle in their attempts to break serve. The match headed to a second set tiebreak, in which Knight fell behind 5-2. Two big first serves and a mishit by Roy allowed Knight to get back even, 5-5.
“I would’ve liked to make more returns,” Knight said. I didn’t play too well, but you just gotta kind of grind those matches out.”
At 5-5, Knight hit his serve return cross-court for a winner to earn match point. Knight kept his forehand low as Roy approached and volleyed into the net, allowing Knight to clinch the match, 6-4, 7-6 (5). Knight improved his singles record on the season to 8-0.
“Alex is a gamer and I knew he’d thrive under this atmosphere,” said Michigan coach Adam Steinberg, who is in his second year with the program. “It’s amazing how much he’s improved since I came here.”
Junior Jathen Malik, who moved down from No.1 singles to No. 2 for the match, responded by battling past Alex Dube, 6-3, 7-6 (5). Sophomore Carter Lin continued his strong form, as the No.115 singles player in the country breezed past Alexander Kim, 6-2, 6-1.
“I try to think of it as just another match, but (playing Michigan State) definitely (provides) a little more pressure,” Lin said. “It’s really amazing when you get crowds like this.”
The lowerclassmen aided in the victory as well, with freshman Gabe Tishman rallying from 5-3 down to Spartans freshman Billy Tishler in the first set to win it 7-5. He took the second set 7-5 as well in the longest match of the evening. Sophomore Runhao Hua easily disposed of Michigan State sophomore Jasper Koenen in the No. 3 singles matchup, 6-3, 6-2. The No. 6 singles matchup featured two freshmen, with the Wolverines’ Lubomir Cuba downing Ivan Rakic, a graduate of Ann Arbor’s Pioneer High School, 6-2, 6-4. Cuba clinched the fourth, and deciding point of the match for Michigan.
Michigan improved its all time record against Michigan State to 99-19 in front of 649 fans, above the Varsity Tennis Center’s seated capacity of 632.
“It’s unbelievable, this is what you hope college tennis can be,” Steinberg said about the atmosphere. “I wish elementary school kids and middle school kids and high school kids could come here and see what college tennis can be. It’s one of the big reasons I came to Ann Arbor. This was one of the most special nights I’ve ever had in coaching.”