The Michigan men’s tennis team faced its toughest challenge of the year yesterday as it faced No. 1 Illinois on the road.

The Wolverines (1-7 Big Ten, 7-12 overall) fell 6-1 to the undefeated Illini, with junior Anthony Jackson picking up the team’s lone victory in a super-tie-breaker. Michigan’s top singles player, sophomore Mike Rubin, fell in straight sets to the No. 4 singles player in the country, Amer Delic. Making matters worse, Michigan surrendered the doubles point by dropping all three doubles matches to start off the day.

“We came out today and played some really bad doubles,” Michigan coach Mark Mees said following the tough defeat. “(Illinois) is probably the premier doubles team in the country.”

After seeing the nation’s top squad in action for an entire afternoon, Mees was full of nothing but praise, especially regarding the team’s depth.

“There’s a very good reason that (Illinois is) number one in the country,” he said. “They’ve got a good shot at the national championship – I was very impressed. They go eight guys deep that are real good tennis players. They’ve got some incredible depth.”

On Saturday, the Wolverines traveled to West Lafayette and suffered a 5-2 loss at the hands of Purdue. According to Mees, playing outside for the first time all year in a dual-match was a significant factor in the defeat.

“It was difficult to get outside,” he said. “Our timing was not very good – it was kind of frustrating.”

The fact that the Wolverines had only been able to practice outside once prior to the Purdue match only served to compound the situation.

However, the doubles play was significantly better Saturday, as Michigan kept the matches much closer than they did against Illinois.

“We played some decent doubles yesterday,” Mees said. “We had a decent chance to win the doubles point.”

Following this weekend’s road matches, the team returns home to the Varsity Tennis Center for its final two regular season matches of the year before the Big Ten Championships begin April 24.

Mees feels that much needs to be done before that date arrives.

“We have to play better doubles as a whole,” Mees said. “We have to put out six guys who are going to play solid (at singles).”

Keeping a positive attitude will also be important throughout these next two weeks of tennis.

“We don’t like to lose,” Mees said. “But there’s no frustration, everyone is excited about playing. The main thing I am looking for is for guys to stay upbeat.”

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