He floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee.
Michael Rubin’s performance in the Big Ten singles
championship quarterfinal match at the Varsity Tennis Center
against Christian Tempke of Northwestern was reminiscent of the
great Muhammad Ali in the boxing ring.
Rubin showered the court with strategic jabs, uppercuts, lobs
and spikes yesterday afternoon, and the No. 1 seed emerged
In the most intense match of the tournament, Rubin and Tempke
went serve-for-serve the entire match. Rubin played the Ali card,
tiring out his opponent and throwing the final knockout punch in
the second set to win. Rubin won the first set 7-6(5) in a
tiebreaker and 6-4 in the second set.
Rubin’s small stature forces him to be resourceful on the
court, using his brains and composure to wear his opponents down
and strike when they are tired and weak.
“Michael’s strength is using his feet and his
head,” Michigan assistant coach Dan Goldberg said.
“Most players in this league are around 6-foot-5, and for
Michael to beat those guys he’s got to be a smart, good
Typically, serving is Rubin’s weak point, but yesterday
his serves were strong and consistent. His defensive returns and
cross-court drop shots were even stronger. He played consistently
and conservatively, which allowed him to keep his poise and control
“Michael is very smart and very fast,” Northwestern
head coach Paul Torricelli said. “He is an extremely
challenging guy to play.”
Rubin made few mental mistakes all day, including his match
against Joey Atas of Ohio State, which he won 3-6, 6-4, 6-0.
“I really battled out there,” Rubin said. “For
me, it was more mental and more heart.”
Tempke, a freshman from Evanston, showed a certain skill that
made this match-up a thriller for the crowd and the coaches. His
strength gave him an edge in serves and slam shots. Rubin, however,
was able to take advantage of Tempke’s youth and inexperience
to come out on top.
“I think I beat a tough player today,” Rubin said.
“He hit some good shots, but I just kept battling.”
Michigan freshman Brian Hung also played in a quarterfinal
match, against senior Roddy Cantey of Penn State, but didn’t
come away with a victory. Hung lost to Cantey in three sets, 5-7,
“Brian has had an excellent tournament,” Goldberg
said. “It will be a real good boost for his confidence,
because he knows he can play with anyone in this league.”
Whether or not Michael Rubin has ever stepped foot into the
boxing ring, he has the mind and the heart of a heavyweight
juggernaut. He will use his strengths against Cantey in the Big Ten
semifinal match today at the Varsity Tennis Center.