Up 6-4 in the second-set tiebreaker, sophomore Barrett Franks had a chance to win his match and clinch the dual for the Michigan men’s tennis team over Michigan State (11-7). After a hard-fought point, Spartan Drew Lied hit a short volley that bounced off the net cord, before falling onto his side of the court.

The Wolverines rejoiced after the point, as the missed volley gave No. 25 Michigan (8-4) the victory in its first Big Ten match. Franks’ match point mirrored what was a long day of competitive tennis. Though the matches were close, the Wolverines found themselves on top after each one, sweeping the Spartans, 7-0.

Junior Evan King kicked off his match with a bang, winning the first ten games and dominating his opponent in every aspect. Michigan State’s Aaron Pfister took the eleventh game of the match to get on the board, but for Pfister – who had trouble dealing with the wind all afternoon – it was too little, too late.

“I definitely played well out there,” King said. “I got off to a great start. I’ve been really focusing in practice, and let’s face it, it’s Big Ten season right now. I’m trying to run the table this year and get Big Ten Player of the Year, so this is definitely a good start to that.”

Even after King finished Pfister, 6-0, 6-2, the rest of his teammates were far from finished. Instead of sitting or standing about waiting for his teammates to finish, King enthusiastically went from court to court cheering on his fellow teammates.

“I think (King) is really stepping up well not only with his tennis, which I think looks pretty good right now, but also with his leadership,” said Michigan coach Bruce Berque. “He seems to have a good understanding with what his role is during these matches.”

Though every Michigan player won his first set, freshman Alex Petrone and sophomores Shaun Bernstein and Franks were trailing in their second sets. But it was Franks who ultimately decided the dual.

Franks was determined not to fall into a third set of his own. With his back against the wall, down 5-2, he rallied and pushed the set into a tiebreaker. In the seven-point tiebreaker, Franks used his momentum to take control and beat Lied, clinching the set and match 6-2, 7-6 (4).

Franks’ singles win to clinch the dual for the Wolverines came directly after doubles partner and fellow sophomore Alex Buzzi had beaten Gijs Linders, 7-5, 6-3, to give Michigan a 3-0 lead.

“I thought (Buzzi) got off to a great start today, looked sharp, and then it just looked like he lost his focus a little bit,” Berque said. “He bounced back, though, and didn’t lose his composure and finished the first set well. In the second set, (Buzzi) was staying on top of him throughout. He has a unique game, which gives people a difficult time, and we just need to continue working with him on playing every point the same and not losing focus.”

The remaining Wolverine singles players used the momentum from Franks and Buzzi to win matches of their own. Both Bernstein and Petrone came out on top in third sets almost simultaneously, as each started match points at the same time.

After the two three-set matches ended, only freshman Michael Zhu remained on the court. Zhu broke his opponent once in each set, and that was all he needed to win the match, 7-5, 6-4, and to guarantee the 7-0 sweep for the Wolverines.

“It’s a great feeling, knowing that it’s Michigan State,” King said. “They’re a good team and it’s good to win any Big Ten match like we did today, but it feels even better because it’s Michigan State.”

In addition to Michigan’s stellar singles play, the Wolverines won two of three doubles matches to win the doubles point, which came down to the No. 2 doubles match. After Michigan won at No. 1, Petrone and Zhu dropped their eight-game pro-set, 8-6, leaving the point in the hands of Franks and Buzzi.

The sophomore team served for the set twice, but lost each time, as the No. 2 Spartan duo stormed back to send the set into a tiebreaker. On the Wolverines’ first match point in the tiebreaker, Franks double faulted. But Michigan’s No. 2 pair didn’t make the same mistake twice, as Buzzi drilled a forehand up the middle in between the two Spartans to win the set and the doubles point for Michigan.

“We were up a break, and they came up with some really good returns and ended up tying it,” Buzzi said. “We just kept doing what we’re doing. We didn’t change much, and luckily we got the break.”

The 7-0 victory marks Michigan’s fourth sweep of the season, tying the most they’ve had since 2007. The win also extends the Wolverines’ winning streak to four matches, all of which were played outdoors.

“We have been playing outside a lot, so I think we’re used to it,” Berque said. “I’m sure we’ve been outside more (than Michigan State). That’s where the early spring break helps us, because we go play some matches that we’re typically going to play outside. It probably works in our favor a little bit more.”

The Wolverines travel to Wisconsin and Minnesota next weekend for two more road matches before returning to face Purdue and Indiana at home.

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