COLUMBUS — Sunday was not a day many Michigan men’s tennis players would like to remember. But senior captain Jason Jung is an exception.
After making the short bus trip to Columbus, the No. 23 Michigan men’s tennis team lost to No. 3 Ohio State, 6-1. But that one Wolverine victory was a meaningful upset by Jung of the No. 3 ranked player in the country, freshman Blaz Rola.
As the match got underway, nobody expected Jung to pull off the improbable victory. Though Jung was the more experienced college player, his opponent boasted a ranking 54 spots ahead of Jung.
Rola, the Slovenia native, had tremendous success playing international junior tennis, including several wins on the pro-circuit. Rola’s success has translated to the college game, where he’s lost just two singles matches this season — unheard of for a freshman in college tennis.
Yet none of that mattered. It wasn’t a junior tennis match, nor was it a match on the pro-circuit. It was a No. 2 singles college tennis match that featured a freshman with 19 career college singles wins with a senior who had won 79.
Jung was one of five Wolverine singles players who had a slow start. He lost the first set, 6-3.
“Although the start wasn’t really how I expected it, I think I did really well,” Jung said after the match Sunday.
But once the second set started, Jung turned on the jets. He stormed ahead of Rola 4-0 before closing out the set, 6-1. Jung played a flawless set, filled with winner after winner. During the set, Rola became flustered, as he was unable to get anything going. Jung put him on his heels, forcing Rola to play defense the entire set.
The older Jung gave Rola a lesson on how to play college singles.
Jung carried his stellar play early into the third set and went up an early break, 2-0. But as the set continued, the wind picked up, making it harder for both players to execute their game plans.
“I think conditions were a little tougher, which made it more uneasy for both players, but I have played in the wind enough to know how to handle it,” Jung said.
Not only did Jung know how to handle the wind, but he also knew how to handle Rola. After going up early, Jung and Rola played on serve for the remainder of the set.
At 5-4, Jung was serving for the match. Jung quickly took a 40-0 lead in the game, leaving him with three match points. On the first point, Rola hit a solid return, which Jung missed. The second match point had a similar feel, as Jung hit another unforced error. But Jung rebounded. He boomed a serve that clipped the line before jumping to Rola’s backhand. Rola couldn’t handle the serve and he blocked it back into the net.
“It just came down to a couple points in the third set, and I took advantage of it,” Jung said.
The win was Jung’s first over a top-10 opponent all season and the third loss of the season for Rola.
“(Beating No. 3) is definitely a boost,” Jung said. “I haven’t played too many guys ranked ahead of me this year, but it’s not a surprise and I think it will be good for me for future matches.”
Entering the match, Jung was one win short of 80 career singles wins, after beating Penn State in another three set match on Friday. But on Sunday, the senior captain’s upset over Rola gave him that 80th victory, one that he will remember.
“It was a really good win for Jason,” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “I’m sure it makes him feel really good to beat Ohio State in his last regular season match against them.”
With 80 singles wins, Jung inserted himself in the record books once again as one of only a few players to hold both 80 singles and doubles victories for the Maize and Blue.
“It’s great that I have done something good for my school, but team-wise (the accomplishment) has meant a lot more for me this year than in previous years,” Jung said.