©Colette Lewis 2008--
Ann Arbor, MI--
Many of the fans who began to trickle into the Varsity Tennis Center in Ann Arbor Sunday morning were still buzzing about the No. 21 ranked University of Michigan men's tennis team's nail-biting 4-3 win over No. 16 Pepperdine on Friday evening. Up 3-0, the Wolverines saw their lead disappear, but Andrew Mazlin at No. 4 singles clinched the win, coming back from a set down to take the final point.
As is often the case in college tennis, one day you win the clinching point and the next you lose it, and that's what happened to Mazlin, a junior from Florida, when Cavalier freshman Sanam Singh came back from a set down at No. 4 to earn Virginia's 4th point in a 5-2 victory.
The doubles point started quietly as the crowd, conservatively estimated at 250, directed all its attention to three of the north four courts. Michigan looked to have the point firmly in hand when its No. 2 team, Matko Maravic and George Navas, won four straight games to go from a break down to a break up against Virginia's Ted Angelinos and Lee Singer, and its No. 3 team of Mazlin and Chris Madden stormed to a 6-2 lead over Singh and Michael Shabaz. Once Maravic and Navas secured their match by an 8-5 score, a confident Michigan fan asked me if they would finish the No. 1 doubles if the point had already gone to Michigan.
But Shabaz and Singh came back to tie it at 7-7, and by the time the match reached a tiebreaker, Virginia had taken the No. 1 match. Somdev Devvarman and Treat Huey, the nation's top-ranked team, had their hands full with Mike Sroczynski and Jason Jung, and after trading early breaks it was on serve until Jung was broken serving at 7-7. A stray-ball let called by Devvarman on a break point the Michigan faithful fervently believed their team had already won resulted in a replay of the point, which Virginia took, much to the vocal dismay of the fans. Huey, who had dominated on his serve throughout the match, served it out and then joined his teammates in watching the tiebreaker that would decide the point.
Despite the frustration of having a 6-2 lead slip away, Mazlin and freshman Madden put it behind them, taking a quick 6-1 lead in the tiebreaker on the basis of some impressive returning. They allowed no comeback this time, and after 90 minutes of play, secured the doubles point for Michigan by a 9-8 (2) score.
Virginia, who had lost the doubles point in their 4-3 win over Illinois the previous weekend, started quickly in the singles, taking the first set in 5 of the 6 singles matches.
The six singles are divided between the north and south courts and I elected to watch the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 5 matches. Senior Devvarman of Virginia was up against freshman Jung at No. 1, Wolverine sophomore Sroczynski and freshman Shabaz tangled at No. 3 and junior Peter Aarts of Michigan faced sophomore Houston Barrick at No. 5.
Barrick was the first to take a set, rolling through Aarts 6-1 in less than 20 minutes. Shabaz managed to break the big-serving 6-foot-6 Sroczynski once early in their first set and held on to take it 6-3. Devvarman won the battle of consistency and court positioning against Jung, who often found himself several feet behind the baseline due to Devvarman's depth. The Michigan fans eager to have a look at the NCAA champion and the top-ranked player in college tennis saw for themselves the tennis behind those titles; I heard two separate conversations comparing him to Roger Federer when a particularly opportune winner or service ace was struck. Jung stayed right with Devvarman throughout both sets, but the experience and the big-point aptitude gave Virginia the 6-3, 7-5 win.
In the meantime, Aarts had fought back to take the lead in his second set, but was unable to close it out when serving for it at 5-4. The tiebreaker in the second set started out badly for Barrick when he doublefaulted on two of his three service points, but he hit several inspired off-the-court winners to overcome his poor start to give Virginia its first point of the day.
At No. 3, Sroczynski had used the sole break in the second set to take it 6-4, so it was up to Nos. 2 and 6 to determine whether Virginia would win the matches in which they had already captured the first set.
Virginia's Huey had taken the first set from Maravic 6-4 in a battle of seniors at No. 2, while Angelinos had rolled past Madden 6-0 in the first set at No. 6. But simultaneously both matches reached second set tiebreakers, presenting the possibility that Michigan could be in the third set of the four remaining matches. Huey, however, won his tiebreaker seven points to five, giving Virginia three points, meaning that Michigan would need to win all three matches still being played. Madden did his part by winning his tiebreaker to send he and Angelinos to a third set, and Sroczynski staved off a clinching point in a third set tiebreaker with Shabaz, but Mazlin had lost the final two sets of his contest with Singh by the time Sroczynski defeated Shabaz ten points to eight in their tiebreaker.
With only the score, not the winner, undecided, Madden and Angelinos completed their match, with the Cavalier senior taking it 6-2 in the third set.
Michigan coach Bruce Berque gave credit to Virginia for stepping up their play in the singles.
"When they lose the doubles point they're going to come out real hard, and we tried to caution our guys about a psychological letdown," said Berque, now in his fourth season as Wolverine head coach. "But I think the biggest part of it is that they are a bunch of very good tennis players. Not that it would have been impossible for us to win, but we would have had to play our absolute best and catch them on an off day. There were just a little too good today."
"It was a great match to be part of," said Cavalier head coach Brian Boland, who defeated No. 8 Illinois and No. 12 Notre Dame on the road last weekend. "I give Michigan a lot of credit, they're an excellent team, they compete hard, and I think the Big Ten is going to be a battle. Playing Illinois at Atkins, there's nothing like it, and they had an enthusiastic environment here today. The competition we're playing is excellent; it's great for our guys and it's fun. It's the experience I want them to have."
For the complete scoring summary, visit mgoblue.com.
Monday, February 4, 2008