Oozing with confidence and swagger, the Michigan men’s tennis team’s junior co-captain Barrett Franks tossed the ball over his head, reared back and pounded his second match-point serve just inside the far sideline. The darting ball barely grazed the outstretched racquet of his Northwestern opponent, Sidarth Balaji, as it passed by.

With the 6-2, 6-4 victory, the New Zealand native extended his singles winning streak to nine matches.

On Saturday, Franks recorded his eighth straight win, defeating Illinois’ Ross Guignon by the same score.

“I knew that all the matches, not just mine, were going to be crucial,” Franks said. “With that in mind, I came out with a lot of intensity and jumped off to early leads in both.”

And Franks hasn’t just been good recently — he’s been absolutely dominant. Five of his last six wins have come in straight sets, and his matches are usually among the first ones completed.

“It’s actually kind of relaxing being able to support and help the other guys along once my match is over,” Franks said.

The streak began on March 9 against No. 21 Texas as Franks edged Nick Naumann in a losing effort for the Wolverines, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.

Since then, Michigan is 7-1 overall and 6-1 in Big Ten play, good enough for second place in the conference standings with five matches remaining. The Wolverines’ only blemish came when they lost the Battle for the Little Brown Jug against Minnesota.

“When I’m out there, I try to make as much noise as possible and encourage the other guys to do the same,” Franks said.

His energy and leadership have been key factors for the team’s success as of late, but personal achievement hasn’t always come easily.

As a sophomore, Franks finished his season with an 18-19 overall record.

Over the course of the streak, Franks’ dual-match singles record has improved to 15-2 and his overall singles record has ballooned to 21-6.

“I have been putting in the time on the court and with the guys in the weight room,” Franks said. “I’d say the confidence that I have going into each match is what has helped me the most.”

Even more impressive is that Franks has been playing tougher opponents since the streak began. He started playing as Michigan’s No. 5 singles and has since moved up to No. 3 singles.

“The guys in No. 5 and No. 6 tend to have one or two things wrong with their game that you can exploit, but the guys at No. 3 usually only give you one break in each set where you can get the jump on them,” Franks said. “That’s forced me to be a lot tighter, especially with my service games, because if you lose the break, these players are good and they’re going to jump on you.”

For Barrett, the turnaround has been quite remarkable. And with his recent success, some has come for the Wolverines as well.

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