IU men’s tennis opened the 2021 season on the road, traveling to Iowa on Friday and Nebraska on Sunday. The Hoosiers fell 5-2 against the Hawkeyes but bounced back and defeated the Cornhuskers 6-1.
Iowa took an early lead as graduate student Bennett Crane and freshman Michael Andre fell 6-3 in No. 1 doubles, and junior Carson Haskins and freshman Ilya Tiraspolsky lost 6-2 in No. 2 doubles. The No. 3 doubles match with graduate student William Piekarsky and senior Andrew Redding was left unfinished, as Iowa had already clinched the doubles point.
“Iowa, they came out playing great doubles and had a lot of energy to start with,” head coach Jeremy Wurtzman said. “We weren’t matching intensity and overall play.”
Sophomore Luka Vukovic earned the Hoosiers’ first point of the day at No. 6 singles, winning his match 7-5, 6-4. Vukovic finished the shortened 2019-20 season with a singles record of 12-4.
At No. 5 singles, Andre grabbed his first collegiate victory with a 4-6, 7-6, 1-0 (10-6) win.
Redding split the first two sets of his No. 2 singles match, winning the first 6-2 and losing the second 2-6. The third and deciding set went to a tiebreaker, which his opponent won 7-6.
Crane, Haskins and junior Vikash Singh also fell to the Hawkeyes in singles.
“On the road, we have to be ready from the get-go and match the intensity,” Wurtzman said. “I think not playing for a long time and in a tough environment was definitely a big part of that match.”
Following Iowa, IU traveled to Nebraska for its second Big Ten dual match of the weekend, where the Hoosiers dominated to pick up a 6-1 win.
The doubles pair of Crane and Andre won, as did junior Patrick Fletchall and Redding, which gave IU the doubles point.
Five of six Hoosiers won their singles matches against the Cornhuskers. Andre won at No. 4 singles 6-3, 6-3. Fletchall posted a 6-2, 6-3 victory at No. 6 doubles, and Crane secured the match for IU with a 6-2, 6-4 win at No. 1 singles. Redding added a win at No. 2 singles going 3-6, 6-2, 6-2. Vukovic’s match at No. 5 singles ended with a tiebreaker, which he won 6-7 (2-6), 6-2, 11-9 (11-9).
“We definitely learned a lot from being on the road on Friday,” Wurtzman said. “We kind of reset, regrouped, got a couple of good practices in. We knew more of what to expect going into Sunday, and I think it helped to play on Friday to prepare us for Nebraska.”
The Hoosiers will be back in Bloomington for the next two matches, playing at the IU Tennis Center. On Feb. 27, the team will take on Michigan, and the next day it will play against Michigan State.
Michigan comes into the match sitting at 2-1 on the season and 2-0 in the conference. Its lone loss comes from No. 15 Baylor. Michigan’s two Big Ten victories are over Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Meanwhile, Michigan State has a 1-3 overall record and is 1-1 in the conference. The team’s only conference win is over Minnesota, and its loss is from Wisconsin. Prior to Big Ten play beginning, Michigan State lost two matches to Ohio State.
The Hoosiers look to end a five-match losing streak against the Wolverines and continue their six-match winning streak against the Spartans.
“We know Michigan is one of the best teams in the country this year. MSU is another very good team. They’ve had a good weekend against Minnesota and are coming in with confidence,” Wurtzman said. “But I think we’re excited to play on our home courts that we’ve been practicing a ton on. We definitely got good home matches to look forward to and prepare for.”