To put it lightly, the Michigan men’s tennis team has struggled to win the doubles point.
Thursday was no different.
Having won the last two, the Wolverines seemed to have found the right lineup to carry them through the season. But on Thursday, the doubles lineup surrendered the doubles point against Louisiana State in Baton Rouge, LA.. This loss was the ninth doubles defeat out of 12 tries this season. After surrendering the doubles point, Michigan went on to lose the match 5-2.
The Wolverines had been making progress. With Big Ten season approaching, the Wolverines had won two straight doubles points, until they dropped it to the Tigers.
The No. 2 doubles team of senior Chris Madden and freshman Barrett Franks started the afternoon by losing to Stefan Szacinski and Roger Anderson of LSU 8-5.
Sophomore Evan King and senior Jason Jung, Michigan’s only doubles team with a record above .500 (7-5), followed suit at No. 1 doubles and dropped the pro-set 8-6 to Sebastian Carlsson and Neal Skupski. The Tiger’s pair at No. 1 doubles is ranked No. 12 in the country — six spots higher than King and Jung.
“We didn’t execute very well,” King said. “Going into the match we were pretty confident, we thought it was a good opportunity for us to give our team a point on the scoreboard, but it did not play out very well at all.“
Michigan’s most reliable and successful doubles team left the court guaranteeing LSU a victory in the doubles point, and making the No. 3 doubles match meaningless to the overall match score. Despite this, sophomore Chris Cha and freshman Shaun Bernstein fought hard before falling to Olivier Borsos and Julien Gauthier 8-7.
“That was a little disappointing, but we just didn’t play well in doubles,” Michigan head coach Bruce Berque said. “It just comes down to execution, not skill level, and they did a better job of executing.”
Bernstein was the first to finish on the singles court, but his finish only put Michigan in a deeper hole. Bernstein lost to Szacinski 6-2, 6-1, at No. 3 singles, giving LSU a 2-0 lead.
Just moments after Bernstein’s defeat, fellow freshman and No. 5 singles player Justin Rossi lost to Mark Bowtell 6-1, 6-2. The loss meant Michigan would have to win every match on out to win the dual.
King put Michigan on the board and beat Neal Skupski, at No. 1 singles. The win pushed King’s record to a stellar 11-1 at No. 1 singles, with his only loss coming against Duke. He has vaulted in the singles rankings from No. 95 in November all the way to his current ranking of No. 20.
“I am practicing pretty well, which is giving me confidence going into the matches,” King said. “I’ve just been playing well recently and going out and executing my game plan.”
On his 10-match win streak, King has defeated the No. 6, No. 43 and No. 45 seeds, among many others during a current 10-match win streak.
Franks was the next Wolverine to finish his singles match. A huge second set comeback fell short and Franks lost to Carlsson 6-4, 7-6, at No. 4 singles, clinching the victory for LSU.
“Yeah, sure it’s disappointing, but right now we don’t have a lot of time to dwell on it because we’ve got a few days to get ready for Michigan State,” Berque said.
Despite the upset loss to the Tigers, the Wolverines have survived a tough non-conference schedule, which included seven ranked opponents and five road matches. No. 16 Michigan enters Big Ten play on the road yet again as they face Michigan State (13-1) on Sunday. This match will be the first Big Ten match for either team.
“We’ve been in a lot of close matches this season, and won more than we’ve lost and I think we’ve had pretty good preparation for the Big Ten season,” Berque said.