There was a time, according to Michigan coach Mark Mees, when the Michigan men’s tennis team could go up against opponents and almost guarantee itself a victory.

“If you go back 10 or 20 years, there were certain teams you would play where you knew you were going to win,” Mees said. “There would be a couple good players on every roster, but they didn’t have depth.”

But these days things have changed, as evidenced two weekends ago by the Wolverines’ struggle against Western Michigan during the first home match of this season. What might have been an easier match several years ago has now become a challenge, as many teams have changed the way their lineups are configured.

“A lot of these teams that we’re playing are very solid all the way down the lineup,” Mees said. “That’s one of the things I think has changed in college tennis over the years. No matter who you play they’ve got six solid singles players down the lineup.”

Mees said that the strategy of depth has overtaken previous team arrangements, in which a team’s roster would boast one or two superstars without anyone to back them up in team play. This weekend, Michigan faces two teams, Ball State and Florida State, which exemplify the new trend in college tennis.

“Both of those teams don’t have what you’d call a superstar in their lineup, or anybody that’s ranked in the top 20 in the country, but what they’ve got is a lot of depth,” Mees said. “They’ve got six great players that can come out and really play. It’s going to be a real challenge for each one of the guys in our lineup.”

Mees also cited an increase in international players as a reason teams have become much stronger. Every Michigan opponent so far this season has had at least one international player, and some schools’ rosters such as Tulsa are made up of a majority of players from other countries.

“That’s absolutely been one of the things that has changed, certainly since I played in the ’80s,” Mees said. “With the influx of foreign players that are in the programs and the depth of good players, most teams have depth.”

Two Michigan players are international students – David Anving is from Sweden and Josef Fischer is from Germany. Still, Mees said the Wolverines will have their hands full this weekend and the rest of the season, which they are taking one game at a time.

“What we’ve stressed for the guys is that the only people we can control are ourselves,” Mees said. “We just (have to) play the best tennis we can possibly play. We’re not looking ahead at anything, we’re looking at Ball State this Saturday.”

The Wolverines will face Ball State on Saturday and Florida State on Sunday, both matches taking place at noon at the Varsity Tennis Center.

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