After four days of grueling tennis, it came down to an all-Harvard final.
Co-captain Jason Beren and senior Martin Wetzel edged their teammates, co-captain Jonathan Chu and freshman Ashwin Kumar, 9-7 in a tightly fought doubles championship match at the Wilson/ITA Northeast Regional Tournament.
“It’s always strange to play your teammates,” said Crimson coach Dave Fish ’72. “I never know what’s going to happen. I sit back and don’t coach.”
The victory, coming late Monday night, gave Beren and Wetzel an automatic bid to the ITA National Indoors Championship in Ann Arbor, Mich. They will join Chu, who had already qualified for the tournament by reaching the quarterfinal round at the Icy Hot All-American Tournament two weeks ago.
“I’m glad that we lost to Harvard and not anyone else,” Chu said. “Hats off to Jason and Martin. They’ll be joining me in Michigan.”
Opting to play without a chair umpire, the teammates handled the match themselves. Chu and Kumar jumped out to an early break, but Wetzel and Beren quickly broke back. With the set tied at 7-7, Beren and Wetzel hit some key winners to break to 8-7 and then served out the match.
“It was really close all the way through,” Chu said. “[Beren and Wetzel] played really, really well.”
The thrilling championship match came after a full day of tennis. Earlier, the Crimson collectively won four doubles and two singles matches, sweeping Monday’s matches and setting up, among other things, the all-Harvard doubles final.
“That’s pretty amazing,” Fish said. “We might have done that sometime back in the late eighties, but I’m not sure. The guys just played great.”
The No. 13 pairing of Beren and Wetzel showed the ranking committee that it had underestimated the duo significantly.
The eventual champions came out storming in their quarterfinal match against Cornell’s Nic Bruner and Josh Raff, the tournament’s top-seeded pair. The Crimson duo executed cleanly, hitting solid winners and limiting their unforced errors to take the match 8-4 and advance to the semifinals.
In the semifinals, Beren and Wetzel faced Brown’s Saurabh Kohli and Eric Thomas, who never stood a chance. The Harvard pair continued playing technically sound tennis, rolling through the match 8-4.
“Martin and Jason have played extremely well,” Fish said. “Their styles seem to mesh, and they’re knocking everybody over.”
Chu continued his run as the top seed in the singles draw. In his quarterfinal match against host Virginia Tech’s Stephane Rod, Chu dropped the first set 6-2 before recovering to take the final two sets and advance to the semifinal round.
But that wasn’t the end of the day for Rod and Chu. Only a few hours later, they faced off against each other again in the doubles semifinals. Chu and freshman Kumar dismantled the Hokies pair 8-5, upsetting the No. 2 seed and setting up an all-Crimson championship match.
“That’s the best-case scenario,” Beren said. “It shows you how strong our team is doing this year.”
Like Beren and Wetzel, Chu and Kumar faced a Brown duo in their quarterfinal match—a team that had won the regional tournament three years ago as freshmen. The match was a battle from the outset, but Harvard was able to hold off the Bears 9-7.
“It’s good that we have been consistently beating Brown—our rival—in the tournament,” Beren said.
And the drubbing of the Bears continued. In addition to advancing to the doubles final, Wetzel also played a superb quarterfinal match against Brown’s No. 1 player, Nick Goldberg. Though Wetzel was seeded significantly lower, he dominated the match, winning 6-4, 6-4 and earning a spot in the semifinals.
“For everyone else, it was probably an upset,” Fish said. “I sort of felt that Martin had that in him.”
“Martin is playing extremely well right now,” Beren added. “This is what we’ve seen in practice, and it’s good to see him do it in matches.”
By securing a semifinal spot, Wetzel opened up the possibility of an all-Harvard singles final as well.
“There’s a lot of tennis left before we can think of that,” Fish said. “But obviously we’d love for it to happen.”
Both the singles semifinals and the finals will be played this morning.