By Alex Steinhoff, 'M' tennis splits pair of weekend matches at Wisconsin, Minnesota
Published March 25, 2012
Last season, the Michigan men’s tennis team frequently won come-from-behind matches after dropping the doubles point. On Friday in Madison, the Wolverines’ match against Wisconsin (8-6) looked like a mirror image of that season, with Michigan coming from behind to win, 5-2.
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On Sunday against Minnesota (8-3), it looked like the Wolverines were going to come back after dropping the doubles point for the second-straight match. Michigan had first-set leads on four singles courts, but it was the Gophers who held on to upset the Wolverines, 4-3.
While the No. 3 doubles team of freshmen Alex Petrone and Michael Zhu engineered an 8-5 comeback victory on Friday, the other two Michigan pairs failed to get the job done. Wisconsin claimed an early break before winning the last two doubles matches just seconds apart to take the doubles point.
“Both teams played really well against us,” said Michigan coach Bruce Berque. “They each got off to good starts and were really aggressive. We played really well against Wisconsin, and I have to give a lot of the credit to them.”
But the Wolverines – who lost just their fourth doubles point all season – responded to the doubles loss by rallying to win five of six first sets in singles. Only sophomore Alex Buzzi dropped the first set, as undefeated Badger Andy Quirk won, 6-0.
At No. 1 and No. 2 singles, junior Evan King and sophomore Shaun Bernstein each won easily, extending their win streaks to six and four, respectively. King broke late in the first set to give him a 6-4 lead before sweeping Fred Ask in the second set. Bernstein, who also won in straight sets, surrendered only five games to Alexander Kostanov to launch Michigan in front, 2-1.
Zhu was the only other Wolverine who finished his match in straight sets. He squandered a 3-0 first-set lead before reclaiming the set in the tiebreaker. In the second set, Zhu needed one break to defeat Pet Satral, 7-5, to win the set and match, inching Michigan one win closer to the dual victory.
Minutes after Zhu finished his match to put the team up 3-1, his doubles partner Petrone sealed the deal for Michigan.
“At No. 3 and No. 4, they’ve both done a really good job building themselves winning records,” Berque said. “We’ve played a pretty good schedule, so it’s great what they’re doing overall.”
After winning the first set 6-4, Petrone faltered in the second set. But in the third, he regained control en route to a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory. Petrone’s win extended his own match win streak to four, in addition to extending Michigan’s dual streak to five.
As the Wolverines extended their winning streak, they also ended Wisconsin’s seven-match unbeaten streak at home. But on Sunday, Michigan had its winning streak ended by Minnesota, as the Gophers delivered Michigan’s first Big Ten loss.
Buzzi and Franks upset their opponents in a tiebreaker at No. 2 doubles, but the No. 1 and No. 3 pairs lost for the Wolverines, surrendering the doubles point in back-to-back matches.
“I think we took a little bit of a step back against Minnesota,” Berque said. “We came out a little tentative against Minnesota and they just took advantage.”
Like Friday, Michigan claimed the first singles match to tie the dual at one.
“We got a good start on a lot of courts in singles today,” Berque said. “We had a good start, but we weren’t able to sustain it. Minnesota stepped up their game a little bit and played well.”
Minnesota responded after Michigan tied, stringing together three victories in a row at No. 2, No. 3, and No. 4 singles. At No. 2, Bernstein was forced to serve underhanded the entire match because of a shoulder injury he suffered last week, leaving him without one of his best weapons.
At No. 3 and No. 4, freshmen Petrone and Zhu each won just seven games in straight-set decisions, despite both winning two days earlier to help Michigan defeat Wisconsin.
“(Zhu) didn’t play quite as well today as he did on Friday,” Berque said. “(Zhu's) level wasn’t as strong today, and he wasn’t feeling as comfortable on the court. He also wasn’t quite as aggressive as he should have been. (Petrone) got a good start, but his opponent seemed to steady down and raised his game, and he couldn’t quite match it.”
The string of singles victories propelled the Gophers ahead, 4-1, as they clinched the dual with two singles matches still to play.