By Jamie Josephson
Daily Sports Writer
Though the No. 51 Michigan men’s tennis team defeated No. 63 Western Michigan by a score of 5-2 on Saturday, the theme of the day was “firsts.”
The win against the Broncos (0-1) not only gave the Wolverines (1-0) their first dual match victory of the season, but it also marked first-year Michigan coach Bruce Berque’s first collegiate dual match victory as a head coach. Berque was a member of the Illinois coaching staff for the last six years. He replaced previous coach Mark Mees, who resigned last summer after five seasons at Michigan.
Despite the win, Berque thinks that the team has much more room to improve.
“I think there was a little bit more good than bad,” Berque said. “One positive was that we had a great start in doubles. We had good energy and good emotions, which was one of the things we talked about. That gave us a little boost to give us the doubles point.”
By winning two out of three doubles matches, Michigan secured the doubles point with a come-from-behind victory (8-6) by the tandem of senior Josef Fischer and freshman Matko Maravic at the No. 2 spot. Down 5-2 to Western Michigan’s Jose Orozco and Tim Bradshaw in the eight-game pro-set, the Michigan duo was able to swing the momentum back in its favor and break its opponents in several games.
“We just said to keep the ball more in play,” Maravic said. “We knew we could beat those guys.”
Sophomores Brian Hung and Ryan Heller also won their doubles match, 8-4, against Western Michigan’s Tommy Dennis and Brady Crosby.
“Firsts” was also a theme for Maravic. In addition to his doubles victory, Maravic won his first singles dual match as a Wolverine. At the No. 4 slot, Maravic dominated Bradshaw in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2. The freshman’s superior service-and-net game frustrated his opponent and sealed the victory for Michigan.
“(Maravic) is a stud,” Berque said. “That’s exactly what we’re looking for. Matko set the standards on how we should be playing as a team. He came (to Michigan) at a pretty high level, and he’s improved quite a bit since then. It’s really nice to see someone show some of the things they’ve improved when they get to a match situation.”
Ranked No. 69 in the nation, senior Michael Rubin served up an impressive performance at No. 1 singles. Playing against Orozco in an evenly matched contest, Rubin’s aggressive style of play proved to be the extra push he needed to beat the Broncos’ top player, 6-4, 7-5. After breaking Orozco to get to 6-5 in the second set, Rubin held his serve for the win.
“I’ve always believed that if I play my best, then I’m a tough guy for opponents to match up with,” Rubin said. “And that’s the message that coach sent me out with today: to go out, enjoy myself and play my game. I think when I do those things, the results take care of themselves.”
Hung also went undefeated, winning his No. 2 singles match in a three-set nail-biter, 6-4, 1-6, 7-5. After dropping the second set to Crosby, Hung came out with a vengeance in the third, winning three straight games. Crosby fought back to tie the set at three, but Hung held strong with several key aces and took home another victory for Michigan.
Senior captain David Anving hardly broke a sweat in a 6-1, 6-1 rout of Alejandro Staub.
As the associate head coach at Illinois before coming to Michigan, Berque helped lead the Illini to four NCAA championships, six Big Ten Conference crowns and an NCAA-record 64 consecutive dual match victories. In his 13 years of coaching, he has not been part of a team that was not among the top 20 squads in the nation.
As a result, Berque has vocalized high expectations for Michigan.
“I told the team before the match that I’ll be satisfied if all players compete hard and play with energy, emotion and discipline,” Berque said. “That did not happen today. So, overall I’m disappointed because it’s not where we want to be … I want these guys to raise their expectations to meet what I expect of them. I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t think they were capable of it.”