Just a year ago, sophomore Brian Hung of the Michigan men’s tennis team was learning to acclimate to a new country, a new school and a new life away from his friends and family in Hong Kong. This year, Hung has proven to be one of Michigan’s most consistent players, having won six of his last seven singles matches.
With a current overall singles record of 15-11, Hung has compiled impressive marks, specifically, at the No. 3 position (6-1). But with senior Michael Rubin out indefinitely with what appears to be a broken wrist, Hung will probably move up to either the No. 2 or No. 1 spot, according to coach Bruce Berque.
“I look at it as a bigger challenge for me,” Hung said. “I think I play well when I have a tougher opponent. I sometimes relax and do not play to the best of my ability when I play an opponent that’s not as good. I would like that opportunity to play higher up in the lineup and hopefully do well.”
Berque explained that Hung is a candidate for moving up in the lineup because of the marked improvement he has made since the fall season.
“For awhile, he was struggling,” Berque said. “(Now) he’s more likely playing with more confidence and playing how he’s supposed to be playing. We’re working on him coming to the net more and on his serve. He’ll have more chances of being successful.”
But just a year ago, Hung had other things on his mind besides tennis. Moving to America after living and playing in China, Hung not only had to deal with the transition to college that most freshmen worry about, but he also had to learn to live in a new country.
“At first, it was pretty difficult,” Hung said. “I went to international school, so I spoke in English in school. But I wasn’t with my family and friends from home. I think the team helped me a lot, especially (my freshman year roommate Steve) Peretz.”
Although he competed in many international tournaments before coming to the U.S. — including the World Youth Cup in 2001 where he qualified for the finals — Hung had mostly played individual tennis. Playing for Michigan was one of his first opportunities to participate in team tennis.
“I like the team atmosphere here a lot,” Hung said. “Tennis comes down to playing (individually), but, with teammates supporting you from the stands, it’s really exciting. It helps a lot with people behind your back.”
In terms of team tennis, Hung has enjoyed success with doubles partner Matko Maravic. The freshman-sophomore duo has compiled a 7-3 record at the No. 1 position. Berque said that their games complement each other very well and that they feed off of one another’s energy.
“(Hung) is a great doubles player,” Berque said. “He’s very natural. He’s got a lot of instincts, quick hands and moves well at the net.”
But Michigan was not the only school Hung was interested in. He also looked into playing for Berkeley and Duke. But Hung weighed several factors in his college decision, as evidenced by his decision to apply to the Business School this year.
“I was looking at academics … and where I would have a better chance of playing higher in the lineup,” Hung said. “I’ve definitely enjoyed my experiences here. The weather is kind of cold, but it’s getting better.”
All joking aside, Hung’s quiet but commanding presence on and off the court has been a welcome addition to the team. As one of four international student-athletes on this year’s squad, Hung brings a diverse record of experience to Michigan.
“It keeps things interesting when you have people from different cultures,” Berque said. “Most of the teams I’ve been a part of have been predominantly American. It’s an educational thing for the rest of the team. (Since Hung has) played a lot of international tennis in the past, he brings more experience than some of the other guys.”
This weekend, Hung looks to continue his recent success, as well as help Michigan (3-0 Big Ten, 10-6 overall) bounce back from its most recent loss to Notre Dame last weekend. The Wolverines will resume conference play on the road against Minnesota on Friday and Iowa on Sunday.