Weekly #17: Wolverines to Head to Big Ten Tournament as No. 2 Seed

April 25, 2012

Big Ten Tournament (Evanston, Ill.)
Friday, April 27 -- vs. Michigan State or Purdue, 1:30 p.m. CDT
Saturday, April 28 -- Semifinals, 1:30 p.m. CDT
Sunday, April 29 -- Championship Match, Noon CDT
Live Results/Tournament Central | Bracket

The No. 22-ranked University of Michigan men's tennis team (16-6) will kick off postseason play this weekend, traveling to Evanston, Ill., to participate in the 2012 Big Ten Conference Tournament, hosted by Northwestern University this Thursday through Sunday (April 27-29) at the Vandy Christie Tennis Center. The Wolverines, who finished runner-up in the Big Ten regular-season standings, earned the No. 2 seed and will receive a first-round buy before facing the winner of No. 7 seed Michigan State and No. 10 seed Purdue at 1:30 p.m. CDT on Friday (April 27).

Dual Match Format -- This weekend's dual matches will be contests 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. For postseason competition, once the doubles point has been clinched, the remaining doubles matches will not be completed. 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. All other matches in progress when the match point is clinched will be abandoned.

Where We Rank -- After seeing its seven-match win streak halted in the regular-season finale at OSU, Michigan dropped a position, falling to the No. 22 spot, in the latest ITA national rankings released Tuesday (April 24). All-American Evan King climbed to the No. 7 singles listing, while U-M's top doubles tandem of King and sophomore Shaun Bernstein checks in at the No. 29 position. [ ITA Rankings ]

Last Time Out -- The Wolverines split their final two dual matches of the Big Ten regular season, cruising past Penn State (6-1, April 20) before falling to No. 3-ranked Ohio State (6-1, April 22). Michigan claimed a marathon doubles point at the Nittany Lions, winning in the tiebreaker on the No. 2 and No. 3 courts, before taking five-of-six singles matches, including four in straight sets. The Buckeyes halted U-M's seven-match win streak in the regular-season finale, sweeping the doubles competition and winning five singles matches. Junior Evan King picked up the Wolverines' lone win, cruising past No. 6-ranked Blaz Rola, 6-3, 6-3. [ Recaps: Penn State | Ohio State ]

Big in the Big Ten -- With its 9-2 record in Big Ten play, Michigan registered its most conference wins since also tallying nine in 1999. The Wolverines' runner-up performance is the program's best Big Ten finish since placing second in 2007. U-M has finished among the Big Ten's top four teams in each of the last eight seasons.

Complete Statistics: Through April 22


No Longer Streaking -- Michigan saw its seven-match win streak halted by No. 3-ranked Ohio State in the regular-season finale. The streak was the program's longest since winning 10 straight in 2007. The Wolverines have won 12 of their last 14 matches. They wrapped up the home portion of their 2012 schedule with a 9-2 record at the Varsity Tennis Center.

King of the Court -- Junior Evan King, the nation's No. 7-ranked singles player, owns a solid 13-6 record against ranked opposition this season, most recently cruising past Ohio State's No. 6 Blaz Rola, 6-3, 6-1.
King is now 2-4 in collegiate meetings against Rola and has won the last two meetings, adding to a 7-5, 7-5 decision against the Buckeye last fall in the second round of the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships, held Nov. 3-6. King had not faced a ranked opponent for six weeks before knocking off Illinois' No. 4-ranked Dennis Nevolo, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3 , to clinch U-M's win at Illinois in the final match earlier this month on April 6. Among King's six total losses this season, five came against top-15 players, including two against Duke's Henrique Cunha and two against Washington's Kyle McMorrow.

We're Going Streaking -- Junior Evan King picked up a pair of weekend singles victories to extend his win streak to 15 matches. King has won 19 of his last 20 matches and boasts a team-best 20-2 dual record. The Wolverine junior is no stranger to long winning streaks. Last season, he boasted a 14-match run early in the dual season.

Climbing the Charts -- With his win against Ohio State's Blaz Rola last Sunday (April 22), junior Evan King improved to 32-6 on the season and claimed sole possession of the eighth position among Michigan's all-time single-season wins leaders. He needs two more to reach the seventh spot, currently held by Dan Goldberg (34, 1988). With his 83-28 career record, King is also nearing Michigan's top 10 all-time leaders in the category. He needs just four more wins to reach the 10th spot, currently held by Jon Morris (87, 1985-88).

A Singles Surge -- Half of Michigan's four returning players in the singles lineup have already matched or surpassed their season win total from a season ago. Junior Evan King leads the Wolverine team with 32 wins, a two-win improvement over his previous best (30), while sophomore Alex Buzzi, with 16 singles wins, has nearly doubled his previous career total (9). Sophomore Barrett Franks is just one win shy of reaching his 2011 win tally (17).

Freshman Phenom -- Freshman Alex Petrone has also been of a tear of late, winning six of his last eight singles matches and 10 of his last 13, including four at the No. 2 position. Petrone is 21-11 on the season and 14-7 in dual-match action. He has also teamed with fellow freshman Michael Zhu to go 14-7 from the No. 3 doubles position; the duo has claimed four of its last five doubles matches.

A Point of Emphasis -- The Wolverines claimed the doubles point in seven of their last eight dual matches and have been solid in doubles throughout the dual season, claiming the initial point in 15 of 21 dual matches and combining for a solid 37-24 combined doubles record. In the six contests in which it dropped the doubles point, U-M has rallied from the initial deficit to earn the dual victory on three occasions, including against Wisconsin in Big Ten play. Michigan won just six doubles points through 24 duals last season.

Buzzi's Breakthrough Year -- Sophomore Alex Buzzi boasts a four-match singles winning streak, collecting a 6-3, 6-1 decision over Penn State's C.J. Griffin in his latest appearance. He posted a perfect 4-0 record the previous weekend, claiming two wins from the No. 5 singles position and a pair of decisions from the No. 2 doubles spot, and has clinched three of the Wolverines' last seven wins, most recently sealing U-M's 4-3 win against Nebraska with his 7-6 (4), 6-3 win against Stefan Gollner after helping to clinch the critical doubles point with a huge 9-8 (9) comeback win. Buzzi, who did not appear in U-M's dual-match singles lineup last year, owns a career-best 16 wins on the season.

We Thank You for Your Attendance -- Michigan fans rank among the best in college tennis. Despite hosting only two home matches in March, the Wolverines remained among the nation's attendance leaders, listing fifth nationally in total attendance (2,955), third in average attendance (422) and boast the fourth-highest-attended match in the nation (684, March 17 vs. Michigan State).

Last Non-Conference Match...Until Postseason -- With its road win at Wake Forest on March 10, Michigan wrapped up its non-conference schedule for the 2012 season. The Wolverines went 7-4 over their non-conference slate and will conclude the regular season with 11 consecutive Big Ten matches before kicking off postseason play at the Big Ten Championships, April 26-29. Michigan had a 7-7 non-conference record in 2011.

Leader of the Wolverines -- Head coach Bruce Berque is in his eighth year at the helm of the Wolverine program, compiling a 124-79 overall record and 51-20 Big Ten mark over his tenure. Berque has led the Wolverines to six consecutive NCAA Championships berths, including the 2008 Sweet 16, and has finished among the top four of the Big Ten in six of seven seasons. Mark Merklein is in his first season as Michigan's assistant coach after joining the staff this past summer. A former ATP tour professional (1994-2005) and NCAA singles (1994) and doubles (1993) champion while at Florida, Merklein spent the previous six years as a national coach with the USTA Player Development Center in Boca Raton, Fla. [ Merklein Hired as Assistant Coach for Wolverine Program ]

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Fri-Sun., May 11-13 -- at NCAA Regionals (Site TBA)
Thu-Tue., May 17-22 -- at NCAA Championships (Athens, Ga.)
Wed-Mon., May 23-28 -- at NCAA Individual Championships (Athens, Ga.)

Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423