After making the NCAA Tournament for the sixth consecutive year, the Michigan men’s tennis team has made it a goal to be in Palo Alto, Calif. next week, playing in the round of 16.

But the biggest obstacle for the Wolverines (13-10) is their doubles play.

In its last seven contests Michigan has struggled mightily with its doubles, and the record has proven that. While only winning the doubles point once, the Wolverines have won just three of their last seven dual matches.

“We’re always going to give our best attention to (doubles),” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “It’s been a weakness for us all season long. We have shown signs of progress recently against Illinois, but we’re surely going to give it out best. We’d like to finish strong.”

A year after displaying superb doubles play — Michigan won the doubles point in 16 of its 25 dual matches last season — Michigan’s doubles have floundered all season. While winning the doubles point only seven times in their 23 dual matches, it has played a key role most of its matches.

Senior Jason Jung understands the importance of winning the doubles point, but also recognizes that the Wolverines’ less-than-stellar doubles record might help them in the NCAA Tournament because they have experience playing from behind.

“The doubles point is crucial,” Jung said. “We’re working really hard to improve, and if it doesn’t happen then we know what to do because we’ve been there. As of right now, we’re doing our best to focus on our doubles and hopefully that will carry through.”

While Michigan sent out the same doubles lineup in most of its dual matches last year because of its strong play and consistency, the team had no such luck this year. Outside of Jung and sophomore Evan King, no players on the roster boast a winning doubles record.

“I don’t think the problem has been that we don’t have the right lineup or that we’re changing the lineup too much,” Berque said. “I think the most important thing is how we execute. It’s all about executing our skills better at each position.”

But while they have lost the doubles point in more than half of their matches, the Wolverines have made a habit of coming from behind to win. Unlike last season, when Michigan was 2-7 in contests in which they lost the doubles point, the Wolverines have showcased a strong resiliency throughout the season. Though losing the doubles point 16 times isn’t something to be proud of, Michigan can take solace in the fact that they have rallied to win eight of those contests.

The Wolverines will also carry with them the knowledge that they can beat elite teams without winning the doubles point. Earlier in the season, they knocked off five straight ranked teams, including then-No. 6 Duke, without capturing the doubles point in any of those matches.

While the doubles situation has hurt, Michigan has been able to absorb the losses by the strength of its singles play. No. 21 King, Jung and freshman Shaun Bernstein have all compiled at least 20 singles victories this season. Another freshman, Barrett Franks, has a winning record in dual matches. The Wolverines’ impressive singles play has compensated for their frustrating doubles play.

But Berque and his team realize the advantage of going into singles with a one-point lead on their opponent. They are 5-2 in contests in which they have won the doubles point — mostly because there aren’t many teams that can win four singles matches against Michigan.

The Wolverines will play Maryland (12-12) in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The Terrapins might not pose much of a threat — they have dropped 10 of their last 13 contests. If Michigan can win, it would face the winner of Duke, the tournament’s No. 11 seed, and George Washington.

With King and great depth at singles behind him, Michigan would love another opportunity to play Duke for a chance to travel to Stanford.

“Not to overlook Maryland, but we’ve played Duke twice this year and we split, 1-1,” Jung said. “I think we’ve got a good chance, and I think we’re all really excited to go back (to Durham, N.C.).”

If the Wolverines can improve their doubles play and win the doubles point in their matches, they will have a great shot at making it to California.

And if they don’t, well, they’ve been playing that way for most of the season.

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