It’s not very often that a lot of cheering comes from the No. 6 singles court at Michigan men’s tennis matches.
But sophomore Duncan Muil made his dual-match debut at No. 6 singles, with family and friends there to support him. Originally from South Africa, Muil finished high school in England before coming to Michigan. His family now lives in Texas, but that didn’t stop them from coming to Ann Arbor. The crowd was even hushed several times by the judge for cheering too loud.
As the team’s only walk-on, Muil had something to prove on Saturday night, as the Wolverines opened Big Ten play at home against Michigan State.
Despite falling to the Spartans’ Clark Richardson 5-7, 4-6, Muil proved he had a right to be on the court, keeping each game very close. During the first set, Muil tied Richardson several times (3-3, then 4-4, then 5-5), keeping the match tight before Richardson pulled away.
“My goal was to try and get my win,” Muil said, “but I’m happy with how I played.”
During the first set Muil also re-aggravated an ankle injury from six weeks ago which held him out for about a month. He rolled his ankle while trying to return a wide volley. After about 10 minutes, Muil returned to the court, but his movement was no longer as fluid.
“I wasn’t moving as well. I was struggling to get some of the wide balls,” Muil said.
Though he did not pick up the win, Michigan coach Bruce Berque liked how Muil gave himself the opportunity to be competitive, showing a lot of toughness by working through his injury.
Muil has a strong tennis background despite being a walk-on and not playing competitively his freshman year. He was ranked as high as No. 1 in South Africa for U-14 doubles and No. 8 for singles, as well as having competed in the 2006 U-18 British Junior Nationals.
But playing at the collegiate level is very different, and it’s a structure to which Muil is still adjusting.
“I played a lot in the juniors competitively – all my life pretty much – so coming to college is a totally different atmosphere,” Muil said. “Everyone is so into every point. It’s been a great experience, but it does take some getting used to.”
Even though there was no victory at No. 6, Muil was still able to celebrate a victory with his team, as the Wolverines ended the Spartans’ four-game winning streak, defeating them 6-1.
At this point, Muil is just focusing on his game play, hoping to soon get the win he deserves.
“This season I’d like to get a win, but also see the team do well – that’s the main thing,” Muil said.