Maloney and Styler show promise for Michigan men’s tennis
When you win a top-six showdown as convincingly as Michigan’s No. 5 men’s tennis team did on Thursday, things inevitably get noisy.
Playing in front of home crowds, the Wolverines thrived on the noise, making themselves heard and echoing a steady stream of cheers to their teammates despite each athlete being locked into their own game. It’s a team that thrives on the road to success, but against Tennessee’s No. 6, one connection stood out:
The connection between fifth-year Patrick Maloney and senior Ondrej Styler.
“Me and (Styler) are really close to the field,” Mahoney said. “So I think that helps a lot on the pitch. Just being such good friends and everything. We have to know each other’s games very well.
The pair of upper class students started the evening with a 6-4 doubles victory over the Volunteers team of Shunsuke Mitsui and Pat Harper. Although this is only the fourth time Mahoney and Styler have played together as a doubles team, they are currently 4-0 and haven’t shown any signs of stopping yet.
Their success in doubles turned into singles play. Maloney, playing off the court of Styler, overpowered his opponent with a barrage of forehand rockets. He eventually won 6-4, 6-3.
Styler also took care of business, using shrewd play and a cool head to overcome several breaks and a solid performance from Emile Hudd of the Volunteers. Styler came back from a 4-1 deficit in the first set tiebreaker, taking control in the second set and leading to a 7-6, 6-2 win.
Mahoney and Styler going undefeated that day was impressive, but equally remarkable was the dialogue that went on between them throughout the night. Raucous cheers occasionally echoed through the Varsity Tennis Center, but the nature of their connection throughout the singles matches proved robust and focused.
“They’ve been playing together for four years and they’re good friends off the court, and it shows on the court,” Michigan coach Adam Steinberg said. “It’s great when they play side by side. It obviously helps them and the team and they see great tennis coming from both of them. It’s a big elevator.
As Steinberg suggested, the bond between Mahoney and Styler is largely based on a shared level of skill and veteran experience that only comes with time. Both are upperclass, and both were heavily involved in Michigan’s success last year, including a 25-4 record and a first-place finish in the Big Ten tournament.
Playing side by side, they form an intimidating duo. Mahoney is 6ft 3in while Styler is 6ft 5in meaning their reach extends to even the farthest corners of the court. Add to that a powerful service game and it’s a tough punch to beat.
“We’re both proud of our serves and our power shots,” Mahoney said. “If we can just dominate and dictate what happens and control what we can control, I think we’ll get the job done.”
Although Steinberg has shown he’s not afraid to switch pairs of doubles among his best players, the perfect doubles record shared by Mahoney and Styler is compelling. As Michigan heads into several tough matchups, they’re a duo the team can rely on.
Their connection on the pitch didn’t appear overnight, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere either.