There will be a Michigan tennis player in the finals of the men’s Big Ten Singles Championship today. This morning’s semifinal match will determine who it is, but because Michigan freshman Jason Jung takes on Michigan senior Matko Maravic, a Wolverine will make the championship.
The Varsity Tennis Center hosted the annual tournament this weekend, which included a 64-player main draw and a qualifying draw on Friday.
Tournament directors gave eight Wolverines spots in the main draw, including three players seeded in the top 10. Two more stormed through the qualifying to enter the main draw.
Jung and Maravic emerged from the pack, each winning four straight matches to reach the tournament semifinal.
Jung’s path to the semifinal was relatively smooth – he didn’t drop a set. His results this weekend add to the success of his fall season, where he went deep into other tournaments. This freshman is not a typical freshman.
“The success doesn’t really surprise me,” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “Jason came in as arguably the top recruit in the country, certainly one of the top few. He’s played internationally and has a lot of big match experience. He’s a very good player and a very mature competitor for his age.”
Jung’s quarterfinal match exemplified his maturity. After winning the first set 6-4, Jung looked poised to cruise to the next round. But his opponent, Indiana’s Dara McLoughlin, came out strong, breaking Jung once to take a 3-0 lead in the second set.
Jung stayed calm and stuck to his own gameplan.
“I wasn’t trying to think about the score too much,” Jung said. “I just tried to keep playing my game. I finally got my shots down, and it felt a lot better once I got a few points.”
Berque said the team works extensively on the mental challenges of closing out games in situations like Jung’s.
“They’re always supposed to show a strong competitive presence regardless of how they feel,” Berque said. “A lot of times they have to fake it.
“There’s also temptation to rush and finish things quickly, but that won’t work. They’re supposed to stay disciplined and play the way they’re supposed to play. They always need to play aggressively.”
Maravic used this approach to fight through his three-set quarterfinal match against Purdue’s Branko Kuzmanovic. Maravic won the first set in a tiebreak, 7-6 (7-5), after being down an early break. Kuzmanovic applied pressure and broke Maravic twice to win the second set, 6-3.
Maravic changed his shirt before the third set began, signifying a shift in mentality. From the first point of the set, he knew he was going to win it. His yells were so loud that even the chair umpire laughed at them. He won the third set handily, 6-1, to advance to the semifinal.
The two teammates face off today to earn a spot in the Big Ten Singles Championship final.
In three-and-a-half years at Michigan, Maravic has never played a teammate in a tournament.
“I think it’s going to be tough because it’ll be hard to get fired up if I’m playing someone I practice with, and that’s such a big part of my game,” Maravic said.
Said Jung: “Matko is a very consistent player. I just need to get one more ball back than he does.”
Both players have a lot of respect for each other. But it’s still teammate versus teammate, freshman versus senior, newcomer versus the defending Big Ten Singles Champion.
“He knows me well; I know him well,” Maravic said. “We know our strengths and weaknesses, so it’s going to be an interesting match.”