The men’s tennis team is off to a strong start this spring, and with some Big Ten matches coming up at home, there’s plenty more to be optimistic about.
That said, head coach Greg Van Emburgh is preparing for a challenge.
“I think the conference has gotten a lot stronger, and I think every match we have to make sure we are really mentally focused and prepared for a really tough battle,” Van Emburgh said.
Despite some early success, being ranked No. 6 in the Big Ten, the team is still embracing the one match at a time mentality. Van Emburgh feels every team in the conference is solid right now, and it’s important to not dismiss any opponent.
“We are not overlooking anybody, and we really want to take one match at a time,” Van Emburgh said.
The Badgers are preparing for a stretch of home matches starting this weekend against Purdue and Indiana. The players continue to play with confidence and passion, leaving a great impression on Van Emburgh.
“We have to be ready to go on Friday and really play with a lot of belief and heart like we have been, and I feel good about this team in the long term,” Van Emburgh said.
Getting the most out of practices and match play experiences has proven successful for this young tennis team so far, and Van Emburgh has seen his team progress.
“We have been improving over the season, and I think we are still improving,” Van Emburgh said. “We are a young group and we are getting better with every match.”
Although the wins have been something to celebrate, the team has done a great job of learning from the losses as well.
Instead of dwelling on mistakes, the Badgers have been making the most of them in 2011.
“We have tried to work on things in practice, we have tried to tweak little things that guys need tweaking with their game,” Van Emburgh said.
Doubles play, Marek Michalika’s leadership proves beneficial
The Badgers have recently been emerging as a doubles team power as well, which can be a major element of finishing strong with a win.
“Doubles is an important component of winning these matches,” Van Emburgh said. “Doubles is a big thing of communication and how well teams gel together, and I think we have a good formula right now.”
Evaluating different combinations of duos was the first step in looking to learn what the best options for the team were for winning the doubles point. Settling on No. 78-ranked duo Michalicka and Billy Bertha wasn’t a tough decision. They have a great chemistry together, have shown some early success and look to continually better their play.
“I think we have just been meshing well together, we get along well together and it’s translated into doubles play,” Bertha said.
With an overall record of 12-3 (11-3 in the No. 1 doubles position) Michalicka and Bertha are focused on beating some of the top teams in the Big Ten, like No. 3 Ohio State, No. 27 Indiana and No. 64 Purdue in the spring season.
They feel confident in their abilities to achieve victory and they’ve developed a knowledge for each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
“[Michalicka] plays good, he plays a lot of smart shots, and I do a lot of the movement out there,” Bertha said.
The Badgers are returning this season with some great veteran leadership in Bertha and Michalicka, as well as Ricardo Martin — all of whom played in last year’s NCAA championship round of 16. Reaching the NCAAs this year is just as important for them, and they hope to be able to share that experience with the younger players on the team.
Michalicka has emerged this year as the team’s sole captain, after splitting those duties with fellow teammates last year. His extraordinary senior leadership on and off the court has proven a valuable asset for the success of this year’s team.
“He is every coach’s dream, he is a great tennis player, he is a great competitor, he is a great student athlete, he is just an unbelievable ambassador to have as part of your program,” Van Emburgh said.