April 16, 2013 Coach Berque on WTKA Insider
The No. 24-ranked University of Michigan men's tennis team (13-7, 8-1 Big Ten) will conclude Big Ten dual play this weekend, traveling to State College, Pa., to face Penn State (8-14, 2-6 Big Ten) at 3 p.m. on Friday (April 19) before hosting No. 5 Ohio State (25-2, 8-0 Big Ten) at noon on Sunday (April 21) at the Varsity Tennis Center. Plans to stream video of Sunday's match against the Buckeyes via the MGoBlue.com All-Access player have been cancelled due to connectivity issues.
This weekend's dual matches will be for the best-of-seven team points. The dual will begin with three doubles matches consisting of eight-game pro sets. The team that wins two of these three matches will enter the singles competition with one of seven points. After a brief intermission, six singles matches will be played. Each singles match will be the best-of-three tie-break sets and worth one point towards the team competition. The overall dual match will be decided when one team secures four total points. Matches in progress when the dual match is clinched will be played to completion.
With a pair of victories this weekend, U-M will earn a share of its first Big Ten regular-season championship since 1996.
Sunday's dual against Ohio State will mark the final regular-season home match in the illustrious career of senior Evan King, who owns the U-M program record for most combined career singles and doubles wins. After three more victories last weekend, King upped his career total to 188 wins (110 singles, 78 doubles). Prior to this season, Peter Pusztai previously owned the school record for most combined victories with 180 career triumphs (115 singles, 65 doubles) from 1993-96.
Senior Evan King picked up his 110th career singles victory with his 6-4, 6-1 decision over Iowa's Jonas Dierckx on April 14. King ranks third on U-M's all-time singles wins list, is 19-1 in dual-match competition and 25-4 overall this season.
On March 6, senior Evan King became only the fifth Wolverine in program history to post 100 career singles victories, accomplishing the feat by defeating Pepperdine's seventh-ranked Sebastian Fanselow, 6-2, 6-4, at the No. 1 singles position. The victory also marked King's second top-10 win of the season.
On March 13, senior Evan King collected his third Big Ten Athlete of the Week accolade of the season after putting together a 3-0 road trip. King has garnered Big Ten Athlete of the Week on nine occasions during his Wolverine career.
Junior Barrett Franks has won 10 consecutive matches -- including one from the No. 2 position and four from the No. 3 spot -- and is 16-2 in dual-match competition. He trails only senior Evan King in dual wins this year.
Junior Alex Buzzi has strung together a season-high six straight singles wins and is 8-1 in Big Ten play.
The Nittany Lions are 8-14 on the season and carry a 2-6 Big Ten record after falling to Northwestern (5-2, April 12) and Illinois (7-0, April 14) last weekend. Michigan is 20-5 in the all-time series against Penn State and has won the last six straight meetings, including a 6-1 decision last season in Ann Arbor.
The Buckeyes, the nation's No. 5-ranked team, are 26-2 this season and lead the Big Ten with a perfect 9-0 league record after earning road victories over Illinois (4-3, April 12) and Northwestern (6-1, April 14) last weekend. Five different Ohio State players boast national singles rankings, most notably No. 6 Peter Kobelt and No. 9 Blaz Rola, while three different doubles combinations own top-35 rankings. Kobelt and Connor Smith currently list as the nation's No. 16 doubles squad. Michigan is 73-30-2 in the all-time series against Ohio State, but the Buckeyes have claimed the last 12 meetings, including a 6-1 win last season in Columbus.
Senior Evan King has clinched four of Michigan's wins this season, while junior Barrett Franks has secured four U-M victories. King clinched the Wolverines' home opener against TCU (Jan. 19), the squad's neutral-site win over Santa Clara (Jan. 25), U-M's home triumph over Northwestern (April 7) and Michigan's road win at Iowa (April 14). Franks has secured victories against Princeton (Feb. 1) and Wake Forest (Feb. 3) at the VTC and on the road at LSU (March 17) and at Purdue (March 29). Junior Alex Buzzi picked up his second dual-clinching victory of the season against Illinois (April 6), earning a 6-3, 6-4 decision over Alex Jesse at the No. 6 position. Junior Shaun Bernstein clinched the winning point for the Wolverines against Indiana (March 31) with a come-from-behind win at the No. 6 singles position. Bernstein trailed Chris Essick 5-1 in the third set before catching fire from that point forward, winning the next six games to secure the match for Michigan with a 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 decision. Sophomore Vlad Stefan picked up his first dual-clinching win of the season last Friday (April 12) at Nebraska, rallying from a first-set deficit to earn a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 win at the No. 3 singles position.
Michigan is listed as the No. 26-ranked team in the latest ITA national rankings, released last Tuesday (April 16). King is listed at No. 10 in the seventh edition of the 2013 ranking, while sophomore Vlad Stefan is 108th in the latest ITA singles rankings. U-M's top doubles tandem of King and junior Shaun Bernstein is No. 29 in the country, while the pairing of King and junior Alex Buzzi is ranked 44th.
The Wolverines have claimed the doubles point in 12 of 20 dual matches this season, combining for a 33-21 doubles record. Senior Evan King and junior Shaun Bernstein own a 7-4 mark at the No. 1 position, while the tandem of King and junior Alex Buzzi are 5-1 together at the top of the lineup. U-M is 9-3 when winning the doubles point this season and 4-4 when dropping the initial point.
Michigan is off to a 6-2 start at the Varsity Tennis Center this season. The Wolverines have been tough to beat at the VTC since the facility opened in 1997. Michigan is 73-23 (.760) since the 2005 season and is 133-43 (.756) overall at the complex.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
On senior Evan King's legacy at U-M ... "Michigan has an unbelievable history, including Grand Slam champions and national champions. The fact that Evan has won more matches than any player in program history is something that I am proud of, and something that he should be proud of. But I know what he wants the most is to leave Michigan with a ring and bring Michigan a Big Ten Championship, which we haven't had here since 1996. He has helped elevate this program back to national prominence and I know the team is going to try like mad this weekend to help him accomplish his ultimate team goal, which is to win a Big Ten Championship."
On what senior Evan King has meant to the program ... "He has meant a lot to this program. I think a lot of our players, from Barrett Franks to Alex Petrone, will tell you that he has elevated their play by being a great practice partner Right from the beginning, Evan brought a lot of excitement to this program because we knew he was such an accomplished player. He has also brought a tremendous amount of confidence to our team. It is great to head into every dual-match knowing that we have a great chance at winning at the top of the lineup. Besides his talent, Evan is also a person who is extremely well liked by his teammates. He keeps team morale high and keeps tennis fun for the guys. And I think the confidence he plays with -- the charisma he brings to the table --has helped us, and rubs off on his teammates."
On his most memorable moment at Michigan ... "We have had so many dramatic victories over the year, but advancing to the Sweet 16 in 2008 is one of the first things to come to mind. Making it to the primary site of the NCAA Tournament was a great thrill and was really rewarding for our players. Certainly winning a Big Ten Championship or the Big Ten tournament this year would rank right up there and be very satisfying."
On why he got into coaching ... "I always loved the sport and was fortunate enough to be surrounded with a number of great coaches from a young age. After college, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I tried a number of things, from working event management at a pro tennis tournament to working part time at a law firm while giving tennis lessons. Of all the things I was doing, I really enjoyed the game of tennis the most. I was fortunate enough to land a job at the University of Florida, and I quickly knew that college coaching was where I wanted to be. After my time at Florida, I jumped all into coaching and everything else took a back seat."
On his team's biggest strength ... "Every player on our team has come through in a difficult match. All season long we have had guys come through in matches when their backs have been against the wall. The thing I have been most impressed with is that our guys don't panic. Even against Illinois, we lost the doubles point and looked like we were in trouble in singles play, but we kept our composure until the end. This team always seems to keep its composure and I think because of that we are continuing to build confidence right now."
On if his team is peaking right now ... "It kind of feels that way. We thought we were a good team from the beginning, but we had some injuries throughout the season that we were dealing with. Right now, we are about as healthy as we have been. We had a lot of tough losses to start the season, but I can feel the team building confidence. I don't think we have peaked yet, but we are close."
On the depth of the Big Ten this season ... "No matches are guaranteed this year. Every team is dangerous every day you step out onto the courts. We have had very few matches -- maybe just one or two -- that have been decisive. For the most part, the outcome has been decided on the final one or two courts."
Thu-Sun., April 25-28 -- at Big Ten Championships (Columbus, Ohio)