Looking to bounce back from a recent blemish at No. 5 Ohio State, the No. 10 Michigan women’s tennis team (7-2) hosted Baylor (6-1) on Sunday. Despite the Wolverines’ recent loss, the atmosphere in the Varsity Tennis Center was spirited from the start of doubles play.
Sandwiched between the number one and number three doubles teams, junior Mira Ruder-Hook and sophomore Brienne Minor have been rock-solid for Michigan this season. Coming off an undefeated weekend at the ITA National Team Indoor Championship, they did not disappoint Sunday in the Wolverines’ 7-0 victory.
After breaking their opponents’ serve, the duo was up 3-1, but squandered three straight games to go down 4-3. With the eighth game going to deuce and essentially deciding the match, Ruder-Hook took matters into her own hands, chased down a defensive lob from the Bears and forced Baylor to attempt another shot.
The shot died into the net.
With the pair up 5-4, the 10th game came down to another nerve-wracking deuce point. Minor drilled a backhand shot directly at one of the opponents, which was too hot to handle, causing the crowd to erupt in elation. The tandem went on to win the match, 6-4, and solidify the doubles point for Michigan.
Ruder-Hook believes the key to capitalizing on these situations is more of a mental task.
“I honestly think it’s not thinking about it,” Ruder-Hook said. “Just acting like it’s a love-all point. I love playing with (Minor) so it’s more just playing our game right, (to) move forward and try to get forehands.”
Securing the doubles point for the team was important going into singles play, something the Wolverines failed to do in Columbus on Friday.
Ruder-Hook’s singles match seemed to follow a similar storyline to her doubles bout, as she started out hot in the first set, taking a 5-2 lead. But Baylor’s Angelina Shakhraichuk won two straight games to close the gap. Here, Ruder-Hook showed growth from her experience against Ohio State. Instead of focusing on her struggles, she powered through to win the first set and eventually the match, 6-4, 6-3.
“I definitely feel like I’m more focused on my mental game,” Ruder-Hook said. “I feel like playing Ohio State was really great because we got to see what we needed to work on and what to improve on. I focused on my serve and getting up to the ball and coming to the net because that’s what I didn’t do against the Buckeyes.”
Although Ruder-Hook changed some tactical aspects of her game, she was very pleased with how her mental game was improving.
“It was more just like mentally being a little bit more precise on what I’m doing, intentional about what I’m doing,” Ruder-Hook said.
With her mental game becoming more reliable, Ruder-Hook is ready to lead her team, as they head into their spring break trip to California, where they will play USC on March 3.