Job interviews, the first few days of classes, meeting the new
girlfriend’s parents: What do all of these things have in
common? And no, the answer is not just “sweating
profusely.” While it may be true that a little extra
deodorant is in order, these all require one other vitally
important thing: A good first impression.
This is exactly what Michigan’s Brian Hung and Ryan Heller
were looking for in the semifinals of the ITA National Indoor
Championships. The doubles team advanced with a victory over North
Carolina on Friday, setting up a Saturday morning showdown with the
No. 2 seed and defending national champion, Stanford’s K.C.
Corkery and Sam Warburg.
The Wolverine duo showed that they could hang with the best of
the best, but a few untimely mistakes proved costly, giving
Stanford an 8-6 victory.
Hung and Heller, a wild card entry in the tournament, knew of
their underdog status and that they’d have to prove they
could play with the nation’s elite from the start. The duo
wasted no time, with big serves from Heller right off the bat,
taking the first game and showing the Cardinal that they could
“You could tell by the way they carried themselves and the
energy they had that they weren’t intimidated,”
Michigan head coach Bruce Berque said. “That was something we
had talked about the night before, but I wasn’t sure if they
would be or not.”
The match then followed a back-and-forth storyline, with each
team holding its serve. However, Stanford did so relatively easily,
while Michigan struggled to hold its serve as the match progressed.
In many of Michigan’s serving games, the score continually
found itself deadlocked at deuce.
The first example came with the match tied 2-2. The advantage
went back and forth with neither team being able to claim the game.
Finally, Michigan put together two successful points in a row,
holding serve to lead 3-2. Stanford held to tie things up at 3-3,
and won the first three points of the next game to take a 0-40
With the game and control of the match on the line, Hung and
Heller rallied to win the next five points in a row, taking a 4-3
lead and staying on serve. Their next service game would also go to
deuce, one they would win again to take a 5-4 lead in the eight
game pro-set. These deuce games were seen as a double-edged sword
“Whenever your opponent has chances to break and
doesn’t cash in, such as Stanford did, they have the tendency
to become frustrated and more vulnerable for a break of their
serve,” Berque said. “On the negative side, just by the
law of averages, I knew that the more times we went to deuce, the
more likely they were going to win one.”
Either way, by holding serve for five games, Hung and Heller had
made their first impression, and it was a good one. They had proven
that they could win games and looked poised to possibly take the
match. But first impressions only go so far. Those job interviews
and first meetings possess another necessary aspect to make them
successful: a bit of luck.
In this match, Stanford would get its best chance at a break
first. After holding its serve, the match remained at 5-5. With
Hung serving, Michigan took a 15-0 lead. Hung then found himself
with a routine volley to take a 30-0 lead, but missed, sending the
ball into the net. On the very next point, Heller had a chance to
put away a cross court shot but didn’t execute, and Stanford
went up 15-30. The Cardinal would then win the game and take
control of the match, up 6-5. Those two small points had made a
huge impact on the match.
“Going into that game, I was thinking to myself how huge
it was to hold and put the pressure back on them,” Berque
said. “I thought our decision making and competitive level
was good, but that we were just a little behind in some of the
skill level (as shown on those two points).”
The match was not to end without the Wolverines getting their
own real chance at a break. Trailing 7-6, Hung again found himself
at the net with the chance to put away a shot and take a lead in
the critical game. But again, the execution just wasn’t
there, and he put the ball into the net. Unable to capitalize, Hung
and Heller would go on to lose the game and the match.
Although a disappointing loss, Michigan was still able to take
away many positives from the match and tournament as a whole.
“Overall, I thought it was a good result,” Berque
said. “It was also good for the other guys on our team to
see. They could tell both the importance of one or two points in a
match and the fact that some of the things we’ve been working
on in practice are really working.”
And while they may not have made the emphatic statement they
were looking for — the kind that involves hoisting
championship hardware over their heads — Hung and Heller were
still able to make a good first impression as a more-than
-formidable doubles team that won’t be taken lightly come
dual-meet season in January.