Strong doubles play is a staple for any successful collegiate tennis program. Despite representing only one point, it is always a pivotal factor in close matches.
After claiming the doubles point in its first seven matches, the Michigan men’s tennis team (1-3 Big Ten, 7-4 overall) was cruising with a 6-1 record.
But the tide has certainly changed since the start of Big Ten play. The Wolverines dropped three of their first four conference matches, losing the doubles point in each contest. Against Northwestern, if Michigan had garnered the doubles score, it would have earned a 4-3 victory.
The Wolverines will have a break from Big Ten play this afternoon, when they face Bowling Green at the Varsity Tennis Center at 4 pm.
“Sometimes, when you get up 6-0 in your record, you lose sight of what the schedule is and where your tough moments are going to be,” Chris Shaya said. “I think we just got a little bit ahead of ourselves in thinking we were that good. We didn’t realize that this is the moment where the competition really gets jump-started.”
Shaya and his roommate Chris Rolf form Michigan’s No. 1 doubles team and have posted a 3-6 dual match record so far this season (Rolf missed two matches due to injury).
Shaya attributes the return of serve as a reason for the tandem’s sluggish start.
“I think the one thing that we need to work on is our return games,” Shaya said. “Last year I think we did a really good job of smothering teams by putting so many balls in the court. This year we’re hitting the ball too hard and trying to go through teams.”
Shaya and Rolf should be able to augment their record against Bowling Green (9-7), a team that Michigan pounded 7-0 last year without dropping a set.
One setback for the Wolverines is that No. 2 singles player Ben Cox will likely miss today’s match due to mono. Cox experienced symptoms prior to spring break when he was forced to sit out against Northwestern. After playing at about 80 percent two weeks ago in Minnesota and Wisconsin, where he dropped two straight-set decisions, Cox has been absent from practice.
Coach Mark Mees knows that Cox’s presence in the lineup is essential to the Wolverines’ success.
“He’s our senior captain and playing No. 2 in our lineup, and that’s important,” Mees said. “It certainly changes our lineup when we have to bump everybody up a little bit. We got to get him back going if we want to do some damage here in our remaining matches, especially against the better teams.”