The No. 14 Michigan men’s tennis team had won 10 straight matches going into Champaign on Sunday.
By late afternoon, that momentum had sputtered.
With a 5-2 upset loss to No. 17 Illinois, some of Michigan’s underlying weaknesses may have been exposed.
For the second time in two days, the Wolverines failed to gain the doubles point. Michigan dominated in doubles early in the season, winning nine of its first 10 doubles matches.
“I’m concerned,” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “We were winning basically every doubles match we played early in the season. Our level has dropped off.”
Berque pointed to inconsistency in doubles serves as an area where the Wolverines need to return to their previous form.
In both doubles and singles, freshman Chris Madden and junior Andrew Mazlin provided Sunday’s lone bright spots, winning their doubles match at No. 3 and continuing their strong play individually in singles. Madden came back to win after dropping his first set, 4-6. Mazlin took out Illinois’ No. 94 nationally-ranked Billy Heiser, 6-4, 7-5.
Michigan (7-1 Big Ten, 16-3 overall) struggled despite playing at full strength for the first time in several weeks. Freshman Jason Jung returned to the lineup this weekend from a minor wrist injury that kept him out of the lineup last week.
As a No. 1 doubles player with sophomore Mike Sroczynski and a No. 2 singles player, Jung is a valuable force in both components of dual-match play.
“It’s good to have him back,” Berque said. “He’s one of our best players, and we ask a lot for him as a freshman.”
Aside from a lack of execution, factors outside Michigan’s control may have contributed to its poor play on the court.
The team’s schedule was difficult this weekend. The Wolverines beat Purdue 4-3 in West Lafayette on Saturday and then traveled to Champaign for their Sunday match.
Though Berque wouldn’t use scheduling as an excuse, the fatigue incurred by back-to-back matches is difficult to dismiss.
“I don’t think we should be playing back-to-back matches on the road,” Berque said. “Tennis matches are long and very taxing. When you have to jump on a bus and drive a couple hours, it’s not a good situation. But I’m not sure how much that played into the result today.”
Michigan will have to get comfortable with the road because after next weekend’s home match against Notre Dame, the Wolverines will finish the season with two straight road matches against ranked Big Ten foes, Indiana and Ohio State.