They weren’t rushing for forehands or diving for volleys, they appeared to be floating from shot to shot and getting to everything that came across the net.
At the Wolverine Invitational this past weekend, the difference in the Michigan men’s tennis team’s footwork and fitness was clear. And everyone is pointing to new assistant coach Sean Maymi and his unorthodox commitment to fitness training as the reason.
“We’re taking a pretty strong fitness approach, especially with the player’s footwork,” said Maymi, who has coached on the ATP tour (working with pro Michael Russell) and at Fresno State University and Northwestern.
Most of Maymi’s impact has shown in drilling, because he brings a different angle to movement and speed drills that the team performs during practice, head coach Bruce Berque said.
The new work style seemed to pay off this weekend, with sophomore Andrew Mazlin going undefeated for the tournament, a four-team round-robin tournament that impacted only individual records and not the team’s overall ranking.
Senior co-captain Ryan Heller, No. 113 in the ITA singles preseason rankings, went 2-2 this past weekend. Heller’s co-captain, senior Brian Hung, ranked No. 5 in the ITA doubles preseason rankings with junior Matko Maravic, went 3-1. Maravic didn’t play due to a rule that limits the number of fall tournaments players are allowed to enter.
The Wolverines amassed a 21-15 record over the past three days, with Mazlin leading the team with six wins.
“We definitely did a lot better than last year,” Mazlin said. “He is definitely an asset to us.”
Berque said there were ups and downs in this weekend’s play, but added that it was mostly individual skills — in particular getting back for overheads – that need work. It left the third-year coach feeling confident about the team’s prospects for the season ahead.
For the new assistant, the only reference for the team’s play was practice, which is completely different from match play.
“It’s a good chance to see the guys compete,” Maymi said.
Mazlin noted other ways in which he felt Maymi had contributed to the team so far this year, even though he’s only been with the Wolverines for a short time. His influence is allover. He’s joined drills in order to even out the 11 players on the team, worked out with the team every morning and become a fun guy for the team to learn from and hang out with.
“My impression is the players are reacting in a very positive way,” Berque said. “It says a lot about Sean, especially the way everyone loved having Michael Kosta as a coach last year.”
With the team returning all of its players from last year, Berque was looking for a boost when he brought Maymi in to help with the Michigan tennis program.
“I’m optimistic for a big jump,” Berque said. “I expect this team to be a top-10, top-20 team.”
After earning its first NCAA Championship bid since 2002 last season, Michigan will benefit from having Maymi on the coaching staff, particularly to help with fitness training and increasing the quickness of players, which Berque noted is an “area of need” for the team.
“I am echoing a lot of what Bruce is doing and helping him develop the program he wants,” Maymi said.
What they want is a top-10 ranked Michigan tennis team, and with their new coach and solid performance this week, the Wolverines are primed to enter the national spotlight.