Only one player on the Michigan men’s tennis team remains
undefeated in the singles portion of the dual match season.
It’s not a name that most would expect. It’s not senior
Anthony Jackson or junior Michael Rubin. Even junior Vinny Gossain
and freshman Steve Peretz have blemishes on their records. The last
player with a clean record is freshman Ryan Heller.

Heller has quietly amassed an 8-0 record during the dual season
after a less-than-desirable performance during the fall season,
when he registered an 8-6 tally.

“I’ve finally found the groove,” Heller said.
“(In) the fall (I) was a little off.”

While Heller hasn’t been drawing the headlines from his
No. 4 singles spot, he has been flashing some of the team’s
most exciting tennis. Any crowd that amasses above his corner of
the Varsity Tennis Center is guaranteed a good show.

“When he’s hitting his shots, he’s going to be
tough to deal with,” Michigan coach Mark Mees said.

Coming to Michigan after four-straight MVP seasons in the No. 1
singles spot at Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook, Ill.,
Heller could have arrived on campus with a big ego. But for Heller,
being a key part of the Wolverines’ team has been more
important than anything he accomplished before coming to Ann
Arbor.

“Ryan is a great kid and a team player,” assistant
coach Dan Goldberg said. “He fit in really well (on the team)
right from the get-go.”

Thanks to a big serve and powerful forehand, Heller finds
himself on the No. 2 doubles team, alongside Rubin.

The pair is 5-3 on the dual match season, and playing with Rubin
has been a good learning experience for the first-year player.

“(I’ve learned a lot about) the leadership
role,” Heller said. “(Mike’s) always on top of
his game and works really hard.”

Heller tries to learn from his more experienced partner, and
Rubin says that he has been feeding off Heller’s
confidence.

“He’s not cocky or anything,” Rubin said.
“He just goes out there and knows he can get it
done.”

Three of Heller’s singles victories have come off of
tie-break sets. He doesn’t let up in those third sets when
the game’s on the line, outscoring his opponents 6-3 on each
occasion.

It’s no coincidence that Heller can turn it on in the
third set and wow the crowd. Mees attributes it to his
“linebacker mentality.” Sophomore Carey Rubin describes
it as more of a “bulldog attitude.” Either way, his
tenacious style of play has benefited him late in matches.

“I like to be under pressure and come up with a big
shot,” Heller said.

While his record shows perfect consistency, his game is still
being refined. With more experience against the country’s
best college players, Heller could develop into a top national
player.

“He’s got to keep working on the consistency part of
it so his level of play is more balanced, so he doesn’t have
the valleys, because his peaks can be pretty scary,” Mees
said.

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