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.”