With defending champion Brown looming on the horizon, the Harvard men’s tennis team could have look past a weaker Yale squad yesterday afternoon. Fortunately, the Crimson knew better.
No. 39 Harvard (16-8, 6-0 Ivy) won its ninth straight match with a 6-1 defeat of the Bulldogs (7-11, 2-4 Ivy) at Yale. It was the Crimson’s final tune-up before it hosts the No. 42 Brown Bears—the only other team with a perfect record in the Ivy League—in the biggest match of the season thus far.
But before Harvard could set its sights on Brown, the Crimson wanted to make certain that Yale would not score an upset.
“Every time it’s Harvard-Yale, it’s always a close match because of the rivalry ,” said sophomore Jonathan Chu. “It brings out the fan support. We responded well to the fact that we weren’t at home.”
Despite spotting the Bulldogs a point early by losing two of the three doubles matches, Harvard asserted its dominance by flying out of the gates in singles competition.
Junior co-captain David Lingman quickly set the tone for the Crimson by winning his match over Ryan Murphy at No. 1, 6-1, 6-3, and being the first member of the team off the courts. He was followed soon after by junior George Turner, who defeated Yale’s Rowan Reynolds 6-3, 6-1 at No. 4.
“George is usually one of the last ones off the court, but today he finished early,” said Lingman. “He had a great match.”
Harvard continued to cruise through its singles matches. The most closely contested match of the day occured at No. 3, where junior Cliff Nguyen rallied to defeat David Goldman 6-7, 6-1, (10-7).
“We came out aggressively and attacked,” said Chu, who was victorious in both his doubles match with Lingman and in his singles match at No. 2 (6-4, 6-3). “We’re never afraid of any of our competitors.”
Having something to prove after losing doubles matches earlier in the day, senior co-captain Oli Choo, Nguyen, and junior Chris Chiou each won their respective singles matches to round out the sweep for Harvard.
“Singles were very good, but doubles could use a little work,” said Lingman. “We’ve been struggling [in doubles] all Ivy season.”
Harvard was pleased to be able to play the matches outdoors. League rules stipulate that matches must be played indoors if the temperature drops below 50 degrees, which was the approximate gametime temperature. Current weather reports indicate that Friday’s game will be played outside.
“It’s good that we could have this match outdoors,” said Choo. “Now we’re going to be a little more comfortable [on Friday].”
Even with Yale dispatched, Brown still stands in the way of an Ivy League title and an automatic Ivy bid to the NCAA tournament that comes with it.
“We’re going to have to try to block out all the hype and distractions that we know are going to present themselves on Friday,” said Choo.
Even if Harvard loses to Brown, there is still a chance of securing a tournament at-large bid. However, the Crimson will likely be on the bubble come selection day.
Beyond tournament implications, Harvard has a score to settle on Friday. Brown defeated the Crimson 4-3 in Providence last April to end Harvard’s hopes of winning the 2002 Ivy League title.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun, being at home,” said Chu. “This is Oli’s last year, so we want to win this for him and for everyone at school.”