Last season against Western Michigan and Harvard, all eyes were on sophomore Andrew Mazlin. With the overall score knotted at 3 and the dual-match on the line, Mazlin snagged each match for Michigan with a three-set victory.
But last weekend at the Varsity Tennis Center, he was the center of attention for different reasons.
On Friday, he capped off a 7-0 Michigan sweep of the Broncos and was barely seen Saturday night. He quickly finished off Crimson senior Gideon Valkin in straight sets (6-4, 6-3). The 24th-ranked Wolverines went on to defeat Harvard, 5-2.
Unable to put together a winning dual-match singles record in 2006, Mazlin is out to a 4-0 start this season, taking the first set in each match. The Alamonte Springs, Fla., native’s consistent play has paid off as three of these matches have gone on to be straight set wins.
“Andrew played extremely well,” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “Ever since he lost that doubles match in Butler, there’s a different look in his eye. He was just really focused, and that’s the thing we’ve been working on with him since he’s gotten here.”
Although the Wolverines (5-0) may have won by the same margin against then-No. 12 Texas just a week ago, it had a tougher time fending off Harvard’s singles.
After Michigan easily took the doubles matches, the crowd was convinced the Wolverines were going to dominate the night. As the nation’s second-ranked duo of senior Brian Hung and junior Matko Maravic put on a clinic, the pair of freshmen, George Navas and Mike Sroczynski, overpowered their opponents, too.
But Michigan couldn’t carry the dominance over to singles, dropping three of its six first sets.
Maravic and Navas both got their swagger back, winning in three sets, but the woes continued for Hung.
With six Michigan fans heckling Harvard sophomore Chris Clayton about his “guns,” Hung took full advantage. He claimed the first three games.
But once those fans left, Clayton stormed back to take the first set. In a match with 10 service breaks, Clayton and Hung exchanged four in the last five games. Clayton would eventually get the best of Hung (7-5, 7-5). Unforced errors and an inconsistent forehand plagued Hung for his first straight-set loss since Oct. 9, 2006.
Sophomore Peter Aarts was in perfect position to win his match- – taking the first set and serving 5-4 in the second. But his forehand proved inconsistent, and Aarts suddenly found himself at the losing end of the tiebreak. The sophomore wouldn’t recover, losing the match in the super-tiebreak.
“(Harvard) is a good team,” Mazlin said. “We weren’t expecting as tough as they played but they’re definitely a good singles team. Everyone had a pretty tight match. I knew it was going to be a battle.”
Sophomore Scott Bruckmann made his 2007 singles debut Saturday. Finishing just 3-7 last year, Bruckmann started the year well and kept his composure in the second set to win (6-1, 7-6(2)).
The tiebreak was one of six tiebreaks on the day. Excluding super-tiebreaks, Saturday marked the highest number of tiebreaks since March 24, 2002.
After a solid home stand, the Wolverines will fly to Virginia to face William & Mary and No. 5 Virginia. In Charlottesville, Michigan will have its hands full with the seventh-ranked pair of Treat Huey and Somdev Dewarman.
“It’s going to be tough,” Sroczynski said. “(George and I) have never really experienced a match like that in our careers, and it’s going to be different. I think we’ll definitely come out with the same energy, same intensity and same focus no matter what.”