There is no more painful way to lose a tennis match. Just two points away from victoryin the penultimate match of the day, Harvard's tennis team suffered a stunning 5-4 loss at the hands of Yale yesterday on the Palmer-Dixon courts.
Trailing 4-3, the Elis swept the final two doubles matches with close third-set victories to stun the previously unbeaten Crimson.
Although Harvard won the 15-man match, it is the nine-man match that counts in the Eastern League standings. The defeat not only drops Harvard's record to 3-1, but it virtually eliminates any shot at the league title or a trip to the NCAA's.
The death blow came at number two doubles, where Elis Jack Cobeyto and Brad Dressler came back from a 3-2 deficit in the third set tiebreaker to win, 5-3, over Kevin Shaw and Scott Walker. Yale's third doubles team, which had snatched a service break at the 4-3 mark of their third set while the second doubles played their tiebreaker, nailed the victory just minutes later with a 6-3 win in the third set.
The second doubles team's defeat was the third tiebreaker loss of the day for the Crimson. Andy Chaikovsky dropped his match at sixth singles in a second-set tiebreaker, and the third doubles squad of Dan Gerken and Cliff Adler lost the first of their three sets in a tiebreaker.
The pair of doubles losses ended a long comeback drive sparked by Dan Waldman and Todd Lundy. Although the Elis jumped to early 2-0 and 3-1 leads, Waldman and Lundy each won twice as the Crimson overhauled the Elis and pulled into a 4-3 lead.
After Shaw and Walker had dropped their singles matches in straight sets, Captain Waldman bore down to defeat his number one opponent, Cary Leeds, and stop the Yale surge. After the two topflight players had split 6-3 sets, Waldman broke Leeds's serve at 2-all in the third set and appeared to be en route to victory.
Leeds then broke back to halt Waldman's momentum. But the Crimson senior is a seasoned match player, and he broke Leeds right back and then held his service twice for the 6-4 win.
The comeback slowed with Chaikovsky's loss, but Gerken's 6-3, 7-6 victory at number four picked up the page again. Gerkin provided the lone Harvard victory in a tiebreaker, edging Cobetto, 5-3.
Lundy evened the team competition at three-all heading into the doubles with a decisive 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 triumph over Dressler. Lundy needed a set to find his groove, but when he did, he began pasting hard, low shots past his Yale opponent.
After a short break, Lundy and Waldman teamed up to smash Yale's first doubles squad of Leeds and Matt Doyle, 7-5, 6-3. The Elis now trailed, 4-3, and it appeared as if the early Yale lead had been a fluke. The Harvard tennis bandwagon, temporarily slowed, was once again rolling, and the Crimson's fourth league victory in as many tries seemed ripe for the plucking.
But things turned sour quickly. With Shaw and Walker leading 3-2 in their tiebreaker, Harvard needed two of the last four point to win the match.
Yale took the first one. With hardhitting Shaw serving out the match at three-all, the Elis took two more.
As pandemonium broke out on the Yale bench, the Elis' third doubles team broke serve to edge ahead of Gerken and Cliff Adler, 5-3. Yale's Jim Kaufman held his serve, and the Elis gained a stunning victory.
Five hours after the match had begun with both teams in hopeful moods, the Yale players mobbed each other and the Harvard team staggered off humbly.
Kevin Shaw slumped against the back wall, motionless and expressionless, for minutes. Gerken paced quickly away. Adler shook his head in disbelief. Coach Dave Fish wore a face of granite. The team manager slapped close his notebook, covering the scorecard's tally: Yale 5, Harvard 4.