"Goddamn," said Larry Loeb. "Goddamn courts," he said again as he picked himself up from the clay surface and ruefully surveyed his soiled white pants.
It was an unpleasant afternoon all around for Pennsylvania's tennis team.
Mystified by the tricky Soldiers Field courts, irritated by a persistent crosswind and generally frustrated by Harvard's refusal to lose a third set, the Quakers watched the Crimson methodically destroy their EITA hopes Saturday, 8-1.
It was perhaps most frustrating for Loeb, Penn's unimposing No. 2 man. After easily winning a 6-3 first set from Harvard's Ken Lindner, Loeb dropped the second by the same score. By then, it was apparent that a Lindner victory would give the Crimson the fifth point it needed to clinch the match, and as Loeb desperately tried to gain his footing on the slippery clay, Lindner pulled him from one side of the court to the other with accurately placed strokes.
Finally, it was 6-6 in games, and Loeb quickly ran up a 4-2 lead in the tie-breaker. Triple match point. One Loeb winner and Penn would still be alive. The winner never came. Lindner, playing despite a 100-degree temperature, placed three perfect shots in a row, and it was all over for the Quakers for the third straight year, as Loeb, flat on his face, slammed the ground in fury and despair.
But it had been Harvard's day from the beginning. No. 6 man Chris Nielsen put together his best match of the spring to erase Penn's Andy Finn, 6-0, 6-2, and junior Tom Loring swept Quaker Chris Sadkowski at four, 6-2, 6-3, to supply the Crimson with two quick points. From there, though, it was a little more difficult. All four other Harvard singles men had lost their first sets, and the Penn players, aware that a loss by any one of them could result in a defeat for the team, were playing with a cautious brilliance.
But nothing went Penn's way. Randy Barnett, Harvard's steady No. 5 man, rebounded from a 6-3 loss and pinned 6-4 and 7-5 defeats on Steve Strasser to win the third point. On the main court at No. 1 Crimson sophomore Harris Masterson was rallying to split sets in a classic match with National Indoor champion John Adams. Masterson, who had lost to Navy's Craig Dawson 6-1, 6-1, on Friday, dropped the first set 6-3, but came back to capture the second by the same score.
As the tension built on all sides, since Lindner and Harvard No. 3 John Ingard were losing at that point. Masterson broke the match open in the final set, beating Adams on his own serve twice. Playing almost exclusively on the baseline. Masterson frequently gave up chances to put away Adams' lobs with overhead slams, preferring to use perfect groundstrokes and high forehands and wait the Eastern champion out. The ploy worked successfully as Adams, also bothered visibly by the strong wind, went down, 5-3, and Masterson needed only to hold service in the set's 10th game to win 6-4. Adams cordially shook hands, then glared at a Harvard spectator and flung his racquet at the fence.
"There are some unbelievable things going on here," muttered Penn coach Al Molloy, whose squash team had also lost to Harvard 8-1 last winter. Moments later, Lindner beat Loeb, and it was 5-0, Harvard. Ingard eventually outlasted Penn's John Schwartz 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, to complete the singles sweep. Later in the doubles, only the No. 2 unit of Nielsen and Ingard failed to win. It may not have been unbelievable, but it was very damned impressive, and Coach Jack Barnaby was jubilant. "It was a great match," he grinned. "Magnificent tennis." And it virtually assured Harvard of a third-place EITA finish. Columbia, who defeated Princeton 6-3 Saturday, leads the League.