This weekend, the Michigan’s men tennis team brought home two huge victories against Illinois and Northwestern. The Wolverines capped their fourth-straight victory, giving them a 6-1 Big Ten record.
These victories were crucial for the Wolverines to make their presence known in the conference. The Fighting Illini and the Wildcats have proven to be competitive teams in the Big Ten, as they came ranked second and third, respectively. But the Wolverines’ victory bumped them up to second in the conference.
“We are cautiously optimistic,” said Michigan coach Bruce Berque. “We know what we are doing, but we want a strong finish to the Big Ten season.”
On Friday, the Wolverines defeated Illinois, 4-3, and then followed up with a 6-1 victory over Northwestern on Sunday. Both included winning the doubles point, which gave Michigan an early lead.
The Wolverines’ victory over Illinois was headlined by junior Evan King. King closed his match in a competitive third set against Fighting Illini Dennis Nevolo. Considering the caliber of play and the history that King and Nevolo have playing each other, the match was highly anticipated.
“We both grew up in Chicago, and the first time I played him I was only 9 years old,” King said.
King was able to warm up for his match in his doubles set, which ended with a score of 8-5. King said he was still testing the waters in the first two sets of the singles match, but by the end, he’d changed his style of play to score points on his own terms.
King came through again on Sunday with a quick and clean win of 6-2, 6-4. Sophomore Barrett Franks and sophomore Alex Buzzi played more complicated sets, but each still brought home a victory against the Wildcats.
Freshman Alex Petrone was also a key competitor this weekend, winning both of his matches.
On Friday, Petrone played No. 3 singles and closed his match with a 6-0, 6-4 win. The team’s lineup has been pretty static throughout the year, but Petrone played at No. 2 singles for Sunday’s match. This switch proved a success, and he finished his singles match first with a win of 6-0, 6-4.
Petrone has had a steady season so far, and he hopes to continue his success moving forward.
“Right now, I just come out and I’m willing to play every point hard,” Petrone said. “I’m not making errors, and if I get up in the first set, then I’m going to stay up in the second set.
“As a whole, I think we are playing really well. Bernstein is still injured, but he almost got the win on Sunday. We got Buzzi down low, and everyone is competing really well.”
The Wolverines will be forced to maintain the tough mentality if they hope to fight for a spot in the final Big Ten standings. With matches against Nebraska and Ohio State coming up, the team must continue to rally and stay in the lead.
“We are confident because we have been winning matches, but we are also realistic,” Berque said. “Every match has been and will continue to be an absolute battle.”