The Michigan men’s tennis team won its first Big Ten match in convincing fashion against Michigan State, with the help of a breakout performance from sophomore Alex Buzzi.

After playing the only outdoor match in March that anyone on the team could remember, many of the Wolverines sported sunburns to go along with their smiles on the unseasonably warm St. Patrick’s Day.

Michigan crushed the hapless Spartans, 7-0, in the dual match, and looked like a team that is starting to find its identity. They continued to rely on their captains, junior Evan King and sophomore Shaun Bernstein, to set the tone and energize the team. And, the Wolverines looked like they might have found an answer for their inconsistency at the No. 6 singles spot in sophomore Alex Buzzi.

Buzzi, who has been in and out of the singles lineup all year, turned in a stellar, all around day.

He and and sophomore Barrett Franks, his partner on the Wolverines’ No. 2 doubles team, battled through a vocal Michigan State crowd to secure the doubles point for Michigan.

The Michigan State pair fought back from a 7-4 deficit, but Buzzi and Franks closed out the match and effectively silenced the Spartan fans for the rest of the dual match.

“Alex has really stepped his game up recently,” Franks said. “He played with a lot of energy and control today. If he can keep up his solid play, we can be a very dangerous team this year.”

The coaching staff has also noticed Buzzi’s recent emergence.

“Alex Buzzi played well and consistently,” said Michigan coach Bruce Berque. “He has special doubles skills, and they showed themselves today — especially on big points — and really carried that team through in the end. Even when they weren’t playing well, they bent, but didn’t break, which is what we’ve talked about a lot.“

After helping win the doubles point, Buzzi turned his attention to his singles match against Michigan State’s Gijs Linders. Buzzi downed Linders in straight sets, 7-5, 6-3, to contribute to the Wolverines’ impressive sweep of the singles portion of the dual meet.

“It’s pretty sweet, actually,” said Buzzi. “It’s a good win. I played this guy twice already. I lost to him earlier in the fall and beat him last time, but it’s always tough. It was good to close him out pretty quick.”

“He has a unique game, which gives people a difficult time” said Berque. “We just need to continue working with him on playing every point the same and not losing focus.”

Despite the heat, Buzzi did not lose focus. He played with a high level of energy and seemed to get stronger as the match wore on. Buzzi ignited the crowd with a cross-court backhand winner at the end of his doubles match, and he carried that momentum to the singles court. He frustrated Linders with his athleticism by tracking down potential winners and overpowered him at times with strong forehands. His serve was accurate and he took advantage of height and length with well placed volleys at the net throughout the day.

If Buzzi can continue to improve he will be invaluable for the Wolverines’ singles lineup, giving them a chance to win points in every singles match.

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