Stevens: Streak or No Streak, Lobo Conor Berg Is A Winner
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  02/10/2011
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Feb. 10, 2011

Lobo Men's Tennis -- On The Road
1 p.m., Lobos at Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
Saturday: Lobos vs. San Diego, in Tucson.
GoLobos.com: Recap, stats

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

"The Streak" is something all athletes have to eye with a degree of reality and guard like a mean, mother bear protecting her cubs.

Streaks end. That's the way of it. But why give up something so much fun without one heck of a fight because, really, that`s how you got the streak in the first place.

Lobo sophomore Conor Berg is riding a hot streak -- 16 straight wins in singles and 14 straight in doubles. If the streaks never end, he'll be NCAA champ. Heck, if the streak never ends, he could be the U.S. Open champ. Look out, Nadal!

However, the competition as Conor and the Lobos approach Mountain West wars, and maybe NCAA play, is going to get tougher and tougher. Actually, it gets tougher Friday when the No. 61 Lobos hit the road to visit No. 42 Arizona.

The Wildcats are a young, talented team. They are 3-2 overall and yet to crack into Pac-10 competition. They are 3-0 at home and coming off a 7-0 roll of Northern Arizona. On Saturday in Tucson, the Lobos go at No. 50 San Diego. Berg might not have a target on his back, but the Wildcat across the net isn't out there to lose regardless of streak or no streak.

"The streak has been fun," said Berg. "I haven't felt too much pressure with it. With each match, I'm playing better and gaining more confidence in my game. I'm hitting my shots better and I'm playing better.

"I'm not really thinking about keeping it (streak) going for the whole season. Of course, I'm hoping for it not to end, and a lot of people are talking about it, but I'm taking it match by match."

Really, the key is for Berg to win a high percentage of his matches and that's the key for UNM success the rest of the season. Already, UNM is doing that and the improved team play has produced the Lobos' 5-0 season.

"I feel really good about our team," said Berg. "We are so much better at this point of the season compared to last year at this point. Our lineup is pretty much solidified and everyone knows where they are going to be playing going into a match and that really helps. We know where we will be at and what level we have to perform at."

Actually, Lobo coach Alan Dils has never made it a secret as to what level you perform at as a Lobo -- a very high level. A lot his young Lobos put in a lot of work over the summer, and in the fall season, to improve their level of play and get closer to Dils` expectations.

Berg, 6-foot-3 and lean, went into the summer looking to improve his serve, everything else, and put on a few pounds of beef and muscle. He was around 145 pounds last season as a freshman. Berg said showed up around 155 pounds this season, but might have lost a few pounds.

"It's tough to keep weight on when every day you go out and play tennis for a couple of hours," said Berg, who said he threw down a protein shake or two every day over the summer.

Dils said Berg's winning ways are aided by a Berg game that has improved in most areas, including strength and better footwork. Berg can attack an opponent in a number of ways, is solid on defense, and has more power and consistency with his serve.

"I can serve and volley, play from the baseline, or come to the net," said Berg. "I probably worked on my serve more than any other one area. It's a lot stronger now. I have more power and I'm getting my first serve in at a higher percentage."

Berg's success as a sophomore is no surprise. He was a success as a UNM freshman, too. Berg's ended the 2010 season riding a 10-match singles streak and an eight-match winning streak in doubles. He hasn't lost a match in singles or doubles since March of 2010. His singles' mark was 20-10 last season.

Berg already is a winner on the court, but the potential in his 6-3 frame promises there are a whole lot of wins on the way for this Lobo. His long arms and long legs allow him to cover a lot of the court.

"His footwork has really improved," said Dils. "You combine that with the improvement of his basic tennis skills and a better serve and you can see why he's tough to beat."