Serving at 5-4 in the first set of his second-round match at the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships at Ann Arbor, Mich. on Friday, Cliff Nguyen’s persistent cramps—which had been plaguing him since the day before—may have finally proved to be too much.
Or it may have been the prospect of going up one set against fourth-seeded Janne Holmia of Florida, ranked fifth nationally in the preseason, that flashed through the Harvard co-captain’s mind.
Even the comedic third option that Nguyen should have complied with his first-round “strategy” of remaining ignorant of the draw easily comes to mind in the hindsight of a hotly-contested match.
Likely a combination of these factors allowed Holmia to save three set points in the first and force a tiebreaker that he would eventually win 7-4 and ultimately end Harvard’s hopes of Nguyen being the first Crimson champion at the ITA Nationals since James Blake ’01 in 1998.
Holmia beat Nguyen 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the second round of the 32-man competition.
Nguyen advanced to the second round by defeating Nathan Price of Arkansas 7-5. 3-6, 6-4 on Thursday.
Afterwards, Nguyen recounted his play with animated optimism.
“All in all, I’m happy with my performance,” Nguyen said. “To be honest, I didn’t even feel like I was playing my best tennis against [Holmia] or Price. I know that I have the skills to beat Holmia.”
Shaking his head and revealing a rueful smile, he added, “Man, I was so close...” before trailing off, not sure if he should be kicking himself or patting himself on the back—the same back that had pained him so greatly the night before that he had to wear a heated wrap during his match.
Nguyen had never suffered through cramps of any kind during a match prior to this tournament.
There is at least one thing of which Nguyen can be sure.
Informed of Price’s national ranking of 56 in the preseason, Nguyen nodded his head, apparently aware that he can hold his own against the nation’s elite.
Nguyen plans to take the week off before rejoining his teammates in training for the remainder of the season.