During the doubles matchup between the No. 16 Michigan men’s tennis team and No. 3 Ohio State, the Varsity Tennis Center was anything but quiet.
The rows on the north side of the building were packed as the two rival teams battled it out for the doubles point. But the Wolverines would lose at both the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, and the Buckeyes (4-0 Big Ten, 19-3 overall) would gain the initial advantage.
The point was one of four Ohio State would record en route to winning the matchup, 4-1. The loss snapped Michigan’s 21-game win streak at home, which dates back to the 2014-15 season. It also snapped the Wolverines’ five-game win streak overall.
The No. 1 doubles pair for Michigan (1-1, 11-4) consisted of senior Jathan Malik and freshman Connor Johnston, which rank 30th nationally. This was a shift from the norm, as Malik usually pairs with senior Kevin Wong, and the duo sits at No. 5 in the ITA.
“We’ve played that lineup a few times already but we went back to it,” said Michigan coach Adam Steinberg. “I thought it was a good change, we needed it, we’ve been struggling on the doubles court and we just needed something, a spark, anything, so that’s why we made the change.”
Malik and Johnston jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, while the No. 2 pair of juniors Runhao Hua and Alex Knight fell behind their Buckeye counterparts. The No. 3 duo, consisting of Wong and sophomore Myles Schalet, also advanced to a lead.
But while the No. 3 pair was able to secure a 6-4 win, Knight and Hua dropped their match, 4-6. The winner of the doubles point boiled down to the No. 1 spot.
With the game tied at 40 and Ohio State leading in sets, 5-4, the next point would either keep Michigan in the running or give the Buckeyes possession of the doubles point. Ultimately, the Wolverine pair sent the ball out of bounds, giving Ohio State the advantage headed into singles.
At No. 1 singles, Malik faced the challenge of playing Buckeye Mikael Torpegaard, a junior from Denmark who is the top-ranked singles player in the nation.
Malik gained an early edge with a 6-3 win in the first set of the match. The second set went to a tiebreak, which Torpegaard claimed 7-6 (5). The two went into a third set, only to abandon the match after Ohio State recorded its fourth team point on another court.
“I thought he did great,” Steinberg said. “I thought it was a big lift for our team, a big confidence boost for him and for us against the best player in the country. I thought he played a really smooth match and I told him that he should be proud of that effort for sure.”
The Wolverines’ lone point came from junior Alex Knight at the No. 3 spot in straight sets over JJ Wolf, 6-3, 7-5. But individual victories from Ohio State’s Hugo Di Feo, Kyle Seelig and Herkko Pollanen at No. 2, No. 4 and No. 5, respectively, gave the Buckeyes to enough points to claim the win.