The 2013 regular season got off to an exciting start for the Michigan men’s tennis team as it knocked off TCU, 4-3, at the Varsity Tennis Center on Saturday.
Bucking the trend of the past few years, the Wolverines’ season started off against a high-quality opponent, instead of a warm-up match. Both teams competed with high intensity, evidenced by all three opening doubles matches going into tiebreaks.
The doubles combinations of junior co-captain Shaun Bernstein and senior Evan King, as well as sophomores Michael Zhu and Alex Petrone, both won to secure the doubles point in the best-of-seven points dual-match format.
“I think the energy and fight was really good in doubles,” said Michigan coach Bruce Berque. “But I don’t think our execution was as consistent as it needs to be.”
After the drama of the close doubles matches, the crowd became a factor — frustrating the Horned Frog players and coaches, and boosting the energy level for the Wolverines’ singles lineup.
“It’s definitely a positive to have that kind of energy in the building,” said Berque. “The energy is great, and the cheering is terrific.”
Down 3-2 in team points, the dual match came down to King and junior co-captain Barrett Franks. Once again, the crowd spurred the Wolverines towards victory.
“They (the crowd) were so helpful,” said Franks. “It was probably so difficult for my opponent to play at our place with all the kids there.”
Added King: “The score kept getting closer and closer. It turned into a war and it was just me and Barrett. The home-court crowd definitely helped with everything.”
With King cruising to victory, the outcome of the match depended on Franks winning a tiebreak in the third set. Despite playing from behind for most of the last set, Franks was able to showcase his most focused and aggressive tennis to pull out the crucial tiebreak points.
“I thought (Franks) was amazing,” said Berque. “He’s had a couple doozies, but I haven’t seen anything better than this. Under pressure like that, we needed his match. I thought it was an incredible effort. He played really good tennis and he competed like a beast.
“I’ve seen it before so I can’t say I’m shocked, but this is a very special win for him.”
Michigan’s victory did come at a cost, as nagging back and stomach injuries forced Bernstein to miss his singles match. Bernstein’s availability will be a question mark going into next week’s ITA Kickoff match against Santa Clara.
The Wolverines will look to capitalize on the unusual early test TCU gave them and prematurely shake off the typical early season cobwebs.
“Competitively and composure-wise, I give (the team) an A-plus,” said Berque. “That’s a tough opening match for us, I think TCU could be a top 20 team. As far as our toughness, competitiveness and composure, I think it was terrific. If it’s like this at the end of the year, I will be pleased.”