On the court, the level of emotion was apparent. Every few
seconds, a shout of triumph or frustration could be heard emanating
from some corner of the Varsity Tennis Center. Even the fans got
into the act. There were spontaneous cries of support and even a
“Let’s Go Blue” chant from the Michigan faithful.
But it was not meant to be for the Michigan men’s tennis team
on Saturday. The Wolverines fell 4-3 to Minnesota. They rebounded
nicely yesterday with a 7-0 sweep of Iowa.

“(The loss to Minnesota) was a great college tennis
match,” Michigan coach Mark Mees said. “You had five
hours and everybody was busting it and going after it.”

With the teams locked up at three, all eyes turned to the heated
battle between Michigan’s No. 49 Michael Rubin and
Minnesota’s No. 53 Chris Wettengel. The match was as tight as
the rankings indicated, with Wettengel taking the first set 6-3 and
Rubin responding with a 7-5 second-set win. The final set was one
for the ages, with the athletes’ contrasting demeanors adding
to the excitement.

Beginning and ending each point with a loud, and often bizarre,
set of spoken phrases, Wettengel’s antics brought occasional
laughter from spectators. Meanwhile, Rubin was the definition of
cool, showing little reaction to even the most significant points.
The two were knotted at four games each when Wettengel finally
broke through, winning the last two games and earning Minnesota the
thrilling comeback victory.

“We were the better team,” Michigan junior Josef
Fischer said. “We really should have pulled it
out.”

The intensity of Saturday’s contest was obvious right from
the get-go, as the No. 48th Wolverines and the No. 43 Golden
Gophers split the first two doubles matches. With the doubles point
on the line, Rubin teamed with freshman Ryan Heller to take on
Minnesota’s Avery Ticer and Dusan Tabak. After trading games
all match long, the Gophers earned a key break to go up 8-7. But
Tabak tightened up on match point, double-faulted and eventually
allowed Michigan to force a tiebreak. The tiebreak proved to be a
nail-biter, with neither team able to put together a string of
points. Finally, Minnesota cracked, as Tabak’s shot into the
net sealed Michigan’s 9-8 (8) victory.

With the doubles point in the bag, the Wolverines kept on
cruising — or so it seemed. They locked up two of the first
three singles matches, with senior Anthony Jackson (6-4, 6-1) and
junior David Anving (6-4, 1-6, 7-5) coming out on top. The strong
performance early on meant that Michigan needed to win just one of
the last three singles matches to close out the Gophers.

“It was there for the taking,” junior Vinny Gossain
said.

Hampered by a rotator cuff injury, freshman Steve Peretz could
not capitalize on his first-set victory, falling 6-4, 4-6, 0-6.
Fellow freshman Brian Hung had a chance to seal the match during
his second-set tiebreaker, but fell short (6-2, 6-7(3), 4-6),
setting up the epic Rubin-Wettengel match.

Despite the eventual outcome, Mees felt that Michigan’s
effort left nothing to be desired.

“When the guys lay it all on the line and leave it out on
the court and do everything that they can do to win, I’ll
never be upset,” Mees said. “And I’m not upset.
Each guy who played out there put in a good effort, but we came up
a little short.”

The Wolverines showed no ill effects from Saturday’s
heartbreaking loss yesterday, as they burst out of the gate against
Iowa and never looked back. They won all of their matches in
straight sets, finishing off the Hawkeyes in less than three
hours.

“We were a little bit more even-keeled than we were
yesterday,” Fischer said. “Today we were just trying to
take care of business.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.