The move from the Junior USTA level to college tennis can be a difficult transition for most athletes. To succeed in college tennis, a player needs to condition, train and practice more than ever before.

Instead of shirking from this new definition of “hard work,” freshman Alex Petrone has welcomed the change.

“I think the level of training that I get every day here has made the transition easy for me,” Petrone said. “When I was playing in juniors, I never practiced this much and trained as hard. I think the practice has helped me transition even better, and I have been playing better here.”

The Staten Island, N.Y. product came to Ann Arbor this fall as the nation’s No. 14 prospect, good enough to be the top recruit in the Wolverines’ sixth-ranked freshman class. Now, Petrone is playing No. 3 singles for No. 31 Michigan (1-1) and has gotten a confidence boost since playing Junior tennis.

Petrone has improved his game since arriving on campus this past September. In the fall season, Petrone posted a 5-3 singles record and a 4-4 doubles record while playing with three different partners. Petrone wasn’t able to win matches against top-tier opponents in the fall but has managed to do so this winter. After two duals, Petrone has not lost.

In doubles, Petrone has paired with fellow freshman Michael Zhu to win matches at No. 3 and No. 2 doubles by i8-3 scores in each contest.

At No. 3 singles, Petrone defeated his opponent from Western Michigan in three sets. And against Duke, Petrone beat a Duke senior in come-from-behind fashion, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6, in front of his parents.

“It was a cool experience,” Petrone said. “(My parents) are proud of me no matter what, and I think that they are happy that they got to see me fight very hard.”

Michigan coach Bruce Berque explained that playing No. 3 singles as a freshman can be extremely difficult. But in the past two seasons, Wolverine freshmen have proved otherwise.

Last year, it was Shaun Bernstein who impressed at No. 3 singles. This year, Petrone has dazzled in the spot, feeling little to no pressure playing so high in the lineup.

“It’s just playing my game how I play in practice, and I treat (practice) just like any other match,” Petrone said. “I don’t really put any emphasis on where I play in the lineup; I just have to make sure I get the job done.”

Petrone has been mentored by team captains Bernstein and junior Evan King. Bernstein has been a leader on and off the court for Petrone, helping him with anything from school work to tennis.

King, the No. 6 player in the country, has shown Petrone what it takes to be a top player in college tennis in practice and in matches.

“Whenever we need for anything, (King and Bernstein) are there for us and always open for questions,” Petrone said. “(King) is great on the tennis court and he’s just someone we have to try and copy. If we are copying them, we know we are doing well.”

Like King, Petrone dreams of one day playing professional tennis. If Petrone can follow King’s footsteps, he may very well be on his way to doing just that. But for now, Petrone is preparing for No. 21 Texas Tech and its No. 3 singles player Rafael Garcia, who was named to the All-Big 12 team a season ago.

“Right now, my goal is to make it to the (ITA Indoor Championships),” Petrone said. “Throughout the season, I just want to try and win every match I can. Long term, my goal is to go pro.”

In order to make it to the ITA Indoor Championship, Petrone and his fellow Wolverines will need to beat Texas Tech on Saturday and the winner of No. 17 Texas and No. 38 Maryland on Sunday.

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