Three-set win helps men’s tennis team salvage weekend

Ken Zimmer

The Gophers men’s tennis team failed in its chance to move up in the Big Ten rankings, splitting a pair of home matches this weekend.
The team became frustrated after losing 5-2 to Illinois Friday, but recovered with a new lineup and a 4-3 win over Purdue on Saturday.
“We’re a little disappointed because we came in expecting to win,” captain Martin Michalowski said after the Illinois match. “We felt we were good enough to beat them.”
Illinois came into the match huge, both literally and figuratively. The Illini were 6-0 in the Big Ten and held a No. 6 ranking nationally. Its top three singles players are ranked in the top 75, and stand 6-feet-3-inches or taller.
Minnesota’s lone victors, Tom Chicoine and Martin Michalowski, did their best as giant killers. The two served upsets at No. 1 and No. 3 singles in front of about 250 fans at the 98th Street Racquet Club.
Chicoine said he isn’t afraid of bigger opposition because he can plan a strategy around them.
“It works well when (my opponents) are bigger for my chip-game,” Chicoine said after defeating No. 41-ranked Oliver Freelove. “They have to bend a lot lower, and I can take advantage of that.”
Coach David Geatz wasn’t surprised that Michalowski and Chicoine beat stiff competition.
“Tom and Martin are as good as those guys,” he said. “I would bet on Martin beating that guy eight out of 10 times. I don’t consider those upsets.”
The rest of the team couldn’t follow Chicoine and Michalowski’s example, as the Gophers failed to earn another win.
Freshman Jon Svensson lost his first dual match of the season after posting 16 wins. He said he was bothered by a sore back that affected his serve.
“Sometimes a loss will come, and it came today,” he said. “I’ll just have to start another streak.”
On Sunday, the Gophers beat Purdue 4-3, as Martin Kristoffersen defeated Dan Swan 7-5 in the third set of the deciding No. 5 singles match.
With Svensson nursing his back, the team had to shuffle its lineup, playing freshman Tyson Parry at No. 6 singles. Parry hadn’t started in three matches, but won in straight sets despite battling sickness.
The team will need all its resources heading into the Big Ten tournament April 30. The Gophers have a knack for placing well despite their regular season record. The team finished in second and third place despite holding 14-12 and 12-14 records the past two seasons.
Junior Adam Selkirk remains optimistic because the team has been in this position before.
“If you look at the first two years, they are mirror images of this season, and we’ve been able to come up big at the end of the year,” he said.
Illinois coach Craig Tiley agreed with Selkirk, saying Minnesota cannot be counted out.
“There are four or five teams that can win the Big Ten tournament. I know David very well, and I know he’ll have his team ready for the end of the season,” Tiley said.
Before the team starts thinking of making a run in Champaign, Ill., it needs to concentrate on playing Indiana this weekend, which will determine its seeding for the tournament.
If Minnesota (8-11, 4-5 Big Ten) loses to the Hoosiers, it risks finishing among the bottom four teams in the Big Ten. Those teams play on the first day of the tournament, with the winner joining the top seven teams the following day.
“(The Indiana match) is absolutely huge,” Geatz said. “It’s a must-win match.”