After three additional wins this weekend, the Michigan men’s tennis team’s confidence is high. The Wolverines have dominated their opponents, shutting out all three teams they faced and advancing their win streak to five games. Within this unbeaten stretch, Michigan players have lost only once, holding strong with a 32-1 record.
The Wolverines ended the weekend with a match against No. 25 Duke, claiming both the doubles and singles matches for a 7-0 victory. Michigan has won every doubles point during its winning streak, giving the Wolverines a consistent advantage when the match heads into singles play. Juniors Jathan Malik and Tyler Gardiner have proven to be a reliable pair on the court, winning every doubles match they have competed in together.
In addition to being a threat during doubles, Malik is proving to be a dominating force in singles as well. Against Duke, Cleveland and Princeton, Malik won in straight sets, giving Michigan an early advantage in the singles matches. In his match against Duke, Malik, a London native, defeated Nicolas Alvarez, who was an All-American during the 2014-15 season, in a straight set of 6-2, 6-4.
“I want to go out there, and I just have a very big desire to win,” Malik said. “In the last couple of matches I played in, against Kentucky and Cornell, I was a break up in both matches, and I ended up losing, and I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again.
“To be honest, I’m not always looking at the rankings,” Malik said. “I just want to go out there and play the best of myself.”
Redshirt sophomore Alex Knight, who is currently undefeated in singles matches this season, has also been a driving member of the team. All of his wins have come in straight sets, except for one against Princeton’s Josh Yablon, which went for three. Being a consistent threat in both singles and doubles matches, Knight has become a primary player during Michigan’s winning streak.
One of the most noticeable traits for the team is its predisposition for winning in straight sets. Out of the six single matches against Duke, four of them — juniors Malik and Kevin Wong, redshirt sophomore Alex Knight and sophomore Runhao Hua — were straight sets. These early successes put Michigan in a strong position to claim the victory, establishing a clear lead early on in the match.
This trait was also evident against Cleveland, which the Wolverines beat in every singles match, in straight sets, with a tiebreaker occurring for redshirt sophomore Davis Crocker and freshman Gabe Tishman.
“We’ve become a team,” said Michigan coach Adam Steinberg. “The guys are playing for each other. They’re playing for something bigger than themselves, and amazing things happen when you do that. Especially in tennis, it’s an individual sport. But when you support each other on and off the court like these guys have, this is what you get.”