Over the span of a tennis match, there are about 120 points contested on average. Within those points, about 600 shots will be hit in an average match. But as No. 18 Vanderbilt showed Michigan yesterday at the Currey Center in Vanderbilt, it only takes one or two points to decide an entire match.
The Commodores outlasted the No. 49 Wolverines by a 5-2 margin, due mostly to their ability to win points when they counted the most.
“Competitively, our guys were right there to win the big points,” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “We were just outplayed physically in the big points.”
Vanderbilt (7-0 overall) set the tone early, sweeping the Wolverines (3-2) in doubles to win the opening team point of the match. After battling back and forth for the majority of the eight game pro-set, the Commodores’ first doubles team of Scott Brown and Jason Pinsky took control of the match late, defeating Michigan’s sophomore duo Brian Hung and Ryan Heller by an 8-6 margin. Vanderbilt clinched the doubles point when Ryan Preston and Andy Mack won the second doubles match. They dismissed Michigan’s freshman Matko Maravic and senior Michael Rubin 8-4.
The most hotly contested match of the doubles session came against a familiar face. Former Wolverine Matt Lockin teamed with Jordan Magarik to defeat Michigan’s only remaining undefeated team — sophomore Steve Peretz and senior Vinny Gossain at third doubles. The Wolverines’ duo fought to defend their 3-0 doubles record but ultimately fell short in a tiebreaker, 9-8 (6).
“Our doubles came out very tentatively,” Berque said. “We went down an early break in all of our doubles matches. Third doubles did a good job fighting back, but we dug ourselves into a hole too early.”
Lockin then set the pace for the Commodores in singles, preventing a possible Michigan comeback attempt. He gave Vanderbilt a 2-0 lead after beating Hung 6-4, 6-3 in the second singles spot. Lockin — who left Michigan after the 2001 season for Vanderbilt after picking up 27 dual wins over the course of one of the most successful freshmen seasons a Wolverine had ever had — improved to 7-0 on the year in singles.
All hope was not lost. While Hung’s match was still going on, three other singles matches went into first set tiebreakers. With the opportunity to go ahead in three singles matches, and with the sixth singles match yet to start, the Wolverines still had a chance to pull off the upset. But the big points didn’t fall in Michigan’s favor, and it lost two of the three tiebreakers. With one singles match complete, Vanderbilt had the lead, 2-0.
Just minutes after the tiebreakers were completed, Vanderbilt’s No. 17 Scott Brown defeated Rubin 6-2, 6-0.
After a first-set tiebreaker defeat, senior David Anving fell short in his comeback attempt in the second set, losing 6-2. Ryan Preston’s 7-6 (2), 6-2 victory over Anving clinched the fourth point for Vanderbilt, giving them the win.
The Wolverines did anything but give up.
Heller — who did not practice much this past week due to illness — claimed the first point of the day for Michigan, winning his No. 4 singles match in straight sets and defeating Andy Mack 7-6 (3), 6-4.
Despite dropping the first set of his match at third singles in a tiebreaker, Maravic refused to fold. He fought back against Pinsky to win the second set 6-4, tying the match at a set apiece. Pinsky regained his composure in the final set, as the home crowd willed him to a thrilling 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-2 win.
“Matko played a great match,” Berque said. “He and his opponent were very similar in talent and had some amazing baseline points.
“(Pinsky) just came up with the big shots when he needed to the most.”
Peretz and Magarik met in the final match of the afternoon. In what seemed like a replay of the back and forth third doubles match played earlier in the day, the two split the first two sets. The third set was decided by a super tiebreaker, which Peretz claimed 10-7. His 6-1, 2-6, 1-0 (10-7) victory not only gave Michigan its second win of the match, but totaled the number of singles defeats Vanderbilt had seen in its six prior duals.
“Ryan (Heller) and Steve (Peretz) both fought very hard (yesterday),” Berque said. “Our guys showed a lot of pride and heart to keep on fighting.”