PRINCETON. N.J.--As is their custom. Harvard and Princeton played another of their thrilling, classic tennis matches Saturday, deep inside monstrous Jadwin Gymnastum. And as is its custom. Princeton held off a desperate Harvard rally in the doubles matches to win, 5-4, and set itself up for a showdown with Columbia in late April for the EITA title.
Unlike their encounters of the past three years, this one was not a battle for the league championship. Columbia had taken care of that Friday, shutting out the Crimson 9-0 on the Lions' clay courts.
Harvard approached the Princeton match as though nothing at all had happened in New York the day before, and it twice came within an eyelash of winning match that would have put the Tigers away.
A cold miserable rain had forced the contest from Princeton's comfortable outdoor courts to their hard surfaces inside and the switch proved to be to Harvard's advantage. The Jadwin surface was fairly similar to the Palmer Dixon courts where the Crimson had been restricted by snow and damp grounds throughout March, and Harvard consequently salvaged a split of the first four singles contests.
Princeton's Harold Rabinovitz defeated Tom Loring 6-4, 6-4 at number four and Bill Colson rallied from a 5-3 first-set deficit to dominate Harvard's Harris Masterson at number one, 7-6, 6-3. But Crimson freshman John Ingard whipped Mike Shapiro, 7-6, 6-3, at number five, and co-captain Chris Nielsen dumped Brad Wyche at six, 6-2, 6-3.
Meanwhile, Colson's younger brother Dean and Ken Lindner were fighting an epic match at the second spot, and Randy Barnett was extending Princeton's Rich Rampell into a third set at number five. The tension was palpable and altogether familiar as the advantage swung to Rampell, who took the set and the match, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3, and to Colson, who rallied from two points down in the final tie breaker to edge Lindner, 7-6, 6-7, 7-6.
So it was 4-2 with the doubles remaining, and Princeton needing only one more match to clinch its third consecutive over Harvard. it almost didn't get it.
Though Shapiro and Rabinovitz took an easy 6-2 first set from Ingard and Nielsen at number two, the Harvard pair rallied to win the next one, 6-4, and with both of the Crimson's other doubles teams leading their first sets, Harvard was still very much alive.
But Ingard and Nielsen couldn't hold together at the last, and the Princeton twosome won the final set, 6-4, giving the Tigers the fifth point they needed for the match. Moments later Masterson and Lindner, playing brilliantly, rallied to take a second set tie-breaker from the feline Colson brothers and broke them in the third to earn a magnificent 6-7, 7-6, 6-3 triumph. Sadly Barnett and Loring had beaten Rampell and Doug Shaeffer at third doubles, 6-3, 7-6, making Harvard's near miss all the more frustrating.
"I've got no complaints though," said coach Jack Barnaby. "I was proud that they came back after Columbia beat the hell out of them. It's just a shame they didn't have more luck."