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'Dream come true': Nick Beaty bounces back after tough start in Michigan tennis

Things weren’t going the way Nick Beaty had planned his first few seasons with the Michigan men’s tennis team. And yet, he never considered an alternative.

Beaty, the skinny kid from Wayzata, Minnesota, redshirted his freshman season in 2016, and he needed to add strength and didn’t play much until the 2019-2020 season, ultimately interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. A vocal leader and captain, he has shined the last three seasons and is a big reason why the Wolverines are playing for a chance to advance to the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight.

Michigan (24-3) is the No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament and ranked No. 5 in the latest ITA computerized ranking. The Wolverines swept their first two rounds last weekend on their home courts at the Varsity Tennis Center and will face No. 12 Texas on Saturday at noon, again at home, in the Super Regionals.

Beaty, a leftie, has a 13-3 singles record, including 10-3 at No. 6, and he and Patrick Maloney have been tremendously effective in doubles. The unranked duo has an 18-3 overall record and has lost once in the last 16 matches. Their 12-match winning streak was snapped in the Big Ten championship match, which Michigan won by beating No. 4 Ohio State.

During last weekend’s first two NCAA rounds, Beaty and Maloney did not drop a game — let alone a team point — in matches against Western Michigan and Oklahoma.

Now a graduate student in the School of Social Work, Beaty, 24, is glad he pushed on and made a career at Michigan.

“I’m going to have three full seasons of being able to play in the lineup — I’ll take that,” Beaty said. “To go from not playing really at all to playing full seasons and the amount of success we’ve had the past couple seasons, it really has been a dream come true. I’m glad I didn’t try to make it work somewhere else. That didn’t seem appealing to me. I just wanted to stick it out with the friends I have and the coaches I have.

“I’m a good example of being patient with it and trusting. I just had a lot of fun; that was the big thing. No matter what my role, I had a really rough first year, but I stuck with it and I developed and I tried to stay with it. I had some really good relationships on the team, it made it fun every day and it made it fun being out on court. I could see there was a window. I was like OK, I could myself fitting in here, right there at the end.”

The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Beaty was the No. 1 recruit out of Minnesota. But when he arrived at Michigan, he quickly realized there was weight-room work to do to get stronger if he wanted to compete.

“When you go to a team that’s top 20 in the country to begin with, I was coming out of high school and I wasn’t physically at a good enough level as everybody I was playing with,” Beaty said. “I came from Minnesota, and it’s not like the tennis scene is huge there. For the first time, I was like, 'Oh, jeez, I’m not up to standard here,' and that was daunting to me.

“You learn a lot of the sports cliches about hard work and consistently doing stuff and putting in extra time in the summer and try to get stronger. That makes a huge difference being able to be bigger faster, stronger than you were. It goes a long way with your confidence too. Before I knew it, I had a chance to play, and I took advantage of it and I’ve been able to stick around these past few years.”

Beaty has juggled tennis this past semester with a field-work internship for his Master’s degree. He is working with athletic counseling at Eastern Michigan in mental-health services for student-athletes. Beaty is shadowing those in the department and hopes to be working hands-on with EMU athletes next year while he continues his degree work.

Beaty also has continued to work on his game and hopes to continue playing tennis professionally in satellite events as he builds points to get into bigger tournaments. He has a big serve and forehand, and his doubles experience has paid off in singles, as evidenced when he finishes points at the net.

In matches, he tries to keep it simple, knowing that when he starts thinking too much, his strokes can go awry. What he does have as a weapon, though, is his serve.

“I wouldn’t be at the University of Michigan if I didn’t have a leftie serve, that’s for sure,” Beaty said laughing. “It’s a big advantage, definitely.”

While he and Maloney have enjoyed a good deal of doubles success, it has taken time for Beaty to love it. He’s there now and is having fun with it, but there’s a certain stress to playing one set. There are three doubles courts, and a team gets a highly valued point for winning two courts.

“There’s a lot going on, a lot of focus on three courts,” Beaty said. “I feel I black out for most of it, actually. It’s pretty feverish, but it’s fun.”

Michigan tennis is known for its loud practices, players yelling school slogans to pump up teammates and themselves. Beaty may be the one who embraces this the most. During matches, he’s frequently yelling “Go Blue!” to his teammates between points, and frequently runs to the next court for a quick handshake of encouragement.

“I’m happy to say I’m one of the main components of all the yelling. I really enjoy that part,” Beaty said. “That makes for a really interesting and fun environment, and it’s been one I’ve been happy to say I stuck around six years for.

“I feel I’m a good example for the guys coming through now who are going to be carrying the torch for the program that every day you can bring a lot of energy and a lot of spirit and a lot of heart to what we do in practice and matches. I’m happy about that part.”

And now he wants to help lead Michigan to the Elite Eight and keep his final season going.

Twitter: @chengelis