Tall doubles team shines in men's tennis

BY TOM CLOS | APRIL 13, 2012 6:30 AM

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One thing has stayed consistent throughout all of the fluctuations in the Iowa men's tennis team's lineup this season: The doubles team of junior Garret Dunn and sophomore Michael Swank.

The duo has been the Hawkeyes' most reliable doubles option this season, even though they're only 6-11.

Iowa's highlight of the year came on April 6 when the pair defeated the No. 66 nationally ranked team from Indiana.

"Dunn and Swank's performance sometimes gets lost amid the losing," head coach Steve Houghton said. "Those guys have been a really good team."

The duo competed at the No. 2 position for the first two weeks of the season, but were inserted at No. 1 because of the inconsistencies in the lineup. They've been at the top ever since.

The competition should increase with the promotion, but Dunn said that the talent level is usually the same in spots one through three.

"To be honest, it hasn't been that different," he said. "A lot of schools have good doubles throughout, so there isn't much of a difference between their No. 1 and No. 3 teams."

Dunn and Swank look like a match made in heaven when they stand together on the court. Both tower over the competition. Dunn is listed at 6-8 and Swank at 6-6.

Their height provides each with a strong service game, something that has been the key to their success.

"We are both pretty confident in our serves," Dunn said. "We know if we can't get one break point, usually we can serve it out."

Dunn said that his partner's intensity has helped raise his own game on the court.

"[Michael] is a really fired up guy," Dunn said. "I try to get as pumped up as possible too."

Houghton said that the success the tandem has had this season has been a pleasant surprise.

"These are two guys who had never played together, and they've won some matches against good teams," Houghton said. "I never would have envisioned it back in the fall, but they've become a good team."

Dunn and Swank will look for another highlight this season when the Hawkeyes (1-17, 0-7 Big Ten) visit No. 69 Michigan State on Saturday and No. 22 Michigan on April 15.

The Spartans (14-10, 3-5) enter the meet looking to rebound from back-to-back losses to No. 48 Northwestern and No. 18 Illinois.

"Michigan State has pulled some big upsets," Houghton said. "They're very hard to beat on their home courts."

The Wolverines (13-5, 6-1) are on a roll, having won five matches in a row and nine of their last 10.

Eighth-ranked Evan King leads Michigan. The Wolverines also feature the No. 13 doubles tandem in King and sophomore Shaun Bernstein.

"Michigan may have eclipsed Illinois as the second best team in the conference," Houghton said. "They're very solid overall."

The Hawkeyes — in the midst of a 15-match losing streak — remain confident they can break the drought this weekend.

"It's going to be a battle," junior Connor Gilmore said. "I know we've beaten both schools in the past, so there's no reason why we can't go in there and win."

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