Men's Tennis Impress in Opener

The Harvard men’s tennis squad returned to team play for the first time since the fall and narrowly missed upsetting a Top 15 team at home.

Hosting Boise St., Clemson and Minnesota over the weekend at the Murr Center, the No. 29-ranked Crimson played “1.5” matches each yesterday and Saturday, dividing the contest against Boise St. between the two days.

The Gophers (4-0), ascending to No. 11 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association team rankings last week, held off a late Harvard charge Saturday evening to win 4-3. After sweeping the doubles point, Minnesota defeated the Crimson at the top two singles positions. Harvard’s Jonathan Chu and David Lingman each lost in straight sets, and the Crimson found itself in a 3-0 hole.

Junior Cliff Nguyen put Harvard on the board, defeating Avery Ticer 6-4, 6-3 at the No. 5 position. Classmate George Turner then eked out a 7-5, 7-6 (2) victory, pulling the Crimson to within 3-2.

Minnesota’s Clay Estes ended the upset dream, however, beating junior Chris Chiou in three sets, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to seal the win.

“The third set was all about momentum shifts,” Chiou said. “My service percentage really dropped after taking a lead. My serve is a big part of my game, and once that went, it seemed as if everything else seemed to go with it.”

Yesterday afternoon, Harvard pulled out a four-hour marathon against No. 33 Clemson despite an injury to Chu.

“The injury that kept me out was a strain in my right tibialis muscle, lingering from the injury sustained in the weight room back in December,” Chu said. “Coaches and trainers want me to be healthy and ready for the national team indoors.”

The Crimson, facing a Tigers squad that had not lost a doubles match, let alone the doubles point, in dual-match play all season, turned that streak on its head. Led by a narrow 9-8 (5) victory by Lingman and junior Mark Riddell at the No. 1 spot, Harvard swept Clemson in doubles competition.

Clemson won at the Nos. 1, 2 and 5 singles positions, but the Crimson responded by winning at Nos. 4 and 6, setting up a deciding match at No. 3 between Riddell and Jarmaine Jenkins. Riddell had dropped the first set but stormed back to tie the match when all eyes turned to Court 3. With ease, Riddell dispatched Jenkins 6-1 in the third set.

Earlier Saturday the Crimson tookcare of Boise St., clinching the match with a 4-2 edge in the singles competition (thereby making yesterday’s doubles portion a moot point).

Chiou got an easy win when his opponent retired in the first set, but sophomore Chu and Turner both lost in straight sets.

Nguyen beat Boise St.’s Matias Silva 7-6 (3), 6-4 to tie the match at 2-2. After a victory at No. 4, it was up to Lingman to clinch the match versus Boise St.’s Guillaime Bouvier.

The senior co-captain suffered the disadvantage of playing with a cast on his left hand due to a broken thumb, and subsequently lost the first set 7-5. But Lingman broke Bouvier at 5-5 to win the second set 7-5, and coasted to a 6-2 third set.

Players may have been worried about rustiness due to the lenghty mandated “dead period,” but the Murr Center crowd livened things up.

“In the two and some years that I have been here, I have never experienced a better atmosphere for playing Harvard tennis as I did for that match,” Chiou said of the tilt against Minnesota. “I’ve never had so much fun losing before.”

—Staff Writer Rahul Rohatgi can be reached at rohatgi@fas.harvard.edu