The Michigan men’s tennis team dropped a tense match to Pepperdine yesterday, 5-2, at the Varsity Tennis Center. The underdog Wolverines hung tough against the 13th-ranked Waves, but lost a couple close singles matches that would have made the difference.

The 36th-ranked Wolverines grabbed the early momentum by winning the doubles point. They split the No. 2 and 3 doubles matches before junior Jason Jung and freshman Evan King won at No. 1 doubles in dramatic fashion, 9-8 (7-5). On match point in the tiebreaker, Jung hit a blistering forehand that just caught the baseline to seal the victory.

“My heart was pounding when I hit it,” Jung said. “I missed a couple returns right before that, but I knew I had to step in, trust myself, and give it my best shot.”

King, one of Michigan’s highest-touted recruits in years, also impressed during the match with his creative shotmaking. The Pepperdine players seemed caught off guard by the sharp angle of his left-handed strokes.

But Michigan was unable to capitalize on its advantage, dropping four of the five singles matches. The most dramatic and controversial match of the day was probably at No. 1 singles, in which King lost 6-2, 7-6
(7-4) in his first appearance at No. 1. Leading 5-4 with set point in the second set, King hit a winner that appeared to be in, but a questionable out call by his opponent and the line judge’s decision to uphold it kept Pepperdine’s player Bassam Beidas alive in the set.

The call was met by loud booing and accusations of cheating from the audience.

“I hit the ball, I saw it go in and he called it out,” King said. “The set was over, and then it wasn’t. But the ball was definitely in.”

The controversial ruling appeared to weigh on King’s mind afterwards. He became much more animated and missed shots he had been hitting consistently beforehand. Even after the call, he had two consecutive set points and was unable to take advantage. Beidas bounced back to win the second-set tiebreaker and clinch the match.

The fact that King was able to compete so well with Pepperdine’s top player showed the potential that has many saying the 17-year old King has a future on the professional tour. But it also showed that he perhaps still has room to improve mentally.

“I didn’t see the call,” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “But even if it was a bad call, he still had plenty of opportunities to win the match afterward. Bad calls are a part of tennis. The key is how you handle them. I think that Evan’s starting to learn that if he wants to meet his goals both in college and professionally, he’s going to have to fix some problems with his mental focus.”

At No. 4 singles, senior George Navas won the first set 6-3, but lost the next two sets by the same score in the longest match of the day. The Wolverines’ lone single win came from Jung, who took care of business in dominating fashion, 6-2, 6-2.

“I was actually surprised by how easy it was,” Jung said. “Most of the Pepperdine players play with a lot of fight, but this player in particular seemed a little nervous, and I was able to jump on him and take advantage.”

All in all, the day showed some promise for the Wolverines, but they knew they could’ve done better.

“I have mixed thoughts about our performance,” Berque said. “I’m happy with the doubles, but I think we need to improve our competitive maturity overall. We have the physical skills to beat these types of teams, but we need to give strong, competitive efforts on all six courts to do it.”

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