All-important doubles point proves pivotal to men’s and women’s teams

by Zach Eisendrath

On the college tennis scene, nothing is easier to understand than securing the coveted doubles point.

It’s simple – win two out of three of the eight game pro-sets and your team gains a 1-0 advantage heading into the six singles matches – only having to split them to win the match. Lose the doubles point and you are in a steep hole, forced to win two-thirds of the singles matches.

Nobody understands the importance of the doubles point more than Minnesota’s men’s tennis team. The Gophers have never lost a duel when they’ve won the doubles point.

After last weekend’s victory over then-29th- ranked Michigan, coach David Geatz said his team is top caliber and they can compete with anybody in the country when they win the doubles point.

Junior captain Mikey Kantar said by winning the doubles point, the Gophers can compete with anybody in the country.

“The doubles point will continue to be crucial for us,” Kantar said. “We’re good enough that we’ll win three out of six singles against any team in the country, which means if we win the doubles point, we win the match.”

In Saturday’s duel against the Wolverines, the No. 2 doubles team of juniors Sion Wilkins and Andres Osorio won the doubles point for the Gophers 9-8 after Nos. 1 and 3 doubles split, respectively. Their doubles victory carried momentum into their singles matches.

The week prior, Minnesota was right in the thick of things against then-seventh ranked Ohio State, but were swept in doubles, which junior Nic Edlefsen said the team seems to do every time, referring to losing the doubles point.

But the Gophers continue to improve on doubles and have won their past two Big Ten matches while securing the point, giving Minnesota newfound optimism.

“I think we’re going to be a threat in doubles the rest of the year,” Geatz said.

Women understand significance

Minnesota’s women’s tennis team also knows how important the doubles point is to winning.

Coach Tyler Thomson said winning the doubles point takes a lot of pressure off his top singles players.

“It’s huge,” Thomson said. “Instead of having to win one through four (singles), we can have someone not have an on day and still win the match.

“We’re asking for everyone to play at or near their best on the same day, because we don’t have much margin for error if we want to win.”

The No. 1 doubles team of Ida Malmberg and Nischela Reddy has been an exceptional tandem this spring, posting an 11-5 mark. But their winning results have had little importance since, for the most part, the Gophers two and three doubles teams have failed to help Minnesota secure the doubles point.

The Gophers won their first doubles point of the Big Ten season in Sunday’s 4-3 loss to Michigan State.

“Our doubles has been getting better,” Reddy said. “It’s gotten so much better since January. If we can (win the point) it’s a huge boost.”

Little Brown Jug

Minnesota’s football team’s rivalry with Michigan – culminating with the winner receiving the Little Brown Jug – has been well publicized.

But now, the Little Brown Jug has found its way to the men’s tennis scene thanks to Kantar and his father.

Kantar, whose father is a potter, came up with the idea to design a 3-gallon jug with both schools’ names engraved on it, while watching the Gophers football team reclaim the jug when Minnesota beat the Wolverines this fall in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Kantar’s idea became a reality Saturday when both Geatz and Michigan coach Bruce Berque cleared the idea.

“I guess it was cool because we won,” Geatz said. “Maybe it would have been kind of crappy if we lost it.”

Kantar said he hopes the fight for the jug will help restore the rivalry to the elevated status it was once at 10 or 15 years ago, but also said he hopes it brings back some excitement to the Big Ten season.

“It’s all about having some fun,” he said.