One is known for his vocal emotional enthusiasm, the other for his quiet demeanor and steady game. Sophomore Matko Maravic and junior Brian Hung of the No. 29 Michigan men’s tennis team are proving that age-old wisdom still rings true: opposites do attract.
Ranked 15th in the nation, the duo has amassed a team-leading dual-match doubles record of 10-4. With styles of play that differ almost as much as their personalities, Maravic and Hung have become the heart and soul of the Wolverines’ doubles lineup.
“They like each other, and they have great chemistry together,” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “They both play with a high level of intensity. Their skills match up very well. Matko is so solid on returns of serve and his ground strokes; Brian has great hands and quickness at the net. So, Matko sets up Brian really well at the net.”
Playing at the No. 1 position, the tandem has faced some of the nation’s toughest competition. The pairing’s most notable performances include doubles victories against No. 7 Virginia (Feb. 5) and No. 10 Texas (March 9). On Jan. 21, the Michigan duo scored an impressive upset victory over Ball State’s Matt Baccarani and Patrick Thompson, the nation’s fourth-ranked pair at the time.
Since first playing together, both players have been developing different aspects of their game. Hung has worked on his service game and Maravic has improved significantly at the net. In addition to these individual accomplishments, they have experienced notable developments in team chemistry since they were first paired (mid-season last year).
“Now that we’ve been playing together for a year, we know what each other’s strengths are and where we are going to put the ball,” Hung said. “Matko especially has a lot of energy, which is a key point to having a successful doubles team. Doubles is more like a sprint than a marathon, so that energy is very important.”
While providing the emotional energy, Maravic recognizes the important contributions his other half makes to the pairing.
“Brian has great skills, and he volleys much better than I do,” Maravic conceded. “I try to keep my energy up because, especially at No. 1 doubles, all of the matches are very close. But I would personally say that Brian is the better overall player.”
The duo demonstrates a combination of modesty and mutual respect that translates off the court as well. Both players said that their off-court friendship pays big dividends in the heat of competition.
“You have to communicate a lot during doubles matches,” Hung said. “It makes that much easier (when you are friends).”
The ability to recognize value in the different athletic and personality styles has also contributed to the partnership’s success. Hung identifies Maravic as the emotional leader who helps pump him up at the beginning of matches. Conversely, Hung helps his partner stay composed when the team is down.
The give-and-take of their on-court relationship has allowed them to steadily climb the rankings ladder, though Hung said they are not sitting comfortably at No. 15.
“We’re doing pretty good right now, and we’re ranked high,” Hung said. “But we want to stay hungry and not be complacent with what we’ve been accomplishing so far. That’s not where we want to be at. It’s not about rankings. It’s about being the best doubles pairing we can be.”
Clinching the doubles competition for Michigan in its victory against Harvard last Sunday, Hung and Maravic have grown accustomed to shouldering the responsibility of securing the team’s doubles point. With all four of their losses coming at the hands of either a top 10 team or in close, tiebreaker fashion, the dynamic duo has demonstrated enormous potential.
“They really don’t have weaknesses as a doubles team,” Berque said. “They play with emotion and energy. They’re disciplined enough to execute their game plan each time. One thing they really pride themselves on is that even though they’re not very big guys, they’re still so good. They are just rock solid.”
Hung and Maravic will look to help Michigan (2-0 Big Ten, 8-6 overall) win the doubles point for the third consecutive match when it travels to Badger country for a match against Wisconsin at noon on Saturday.