M. Tennis Sweeps Northwestern Despite Fierce On-Court Competition

Don’t let the score fool you—though the No. 21 Harvard men’s tennis team defeated No. 37 Northwestern by a neat 7-0 count, the team’s Valentine’s Day trip to the Midwest could have been a heartbreaker. Trailing by early breaks in five of the six singles matches, the Crimson had to regroup and rally for the impressive victory.

The win boosted Harvard’s record to 2-2, but the modest mark is almost as deceptive as Saturday’s score—both losses came at the hands of schools in the Top 10, and the previous victory was an unexpected 4-1 triumph over No. 18 Kentucky.

The Crimson—which was ranked 29th just over a month ago and fell to 31st at the end of January—was looking to avenge a 2-5 loss to the Wildcats (7-3, 0-1 Big Ten) in 2002, the last time the two schools met.

Mainly, though, Harvard was looking for the W.

The team took an initial lead when the second and third doubles pairs won their prosets 8-6 and 8-5, respectively.

Despite the Crimson’s securing of the doubles point, Northwestern seemed to enter singles play with the upper hand after a thrilling win in the first-seeded doubles match.

The top Harvard duo of co-captain David Lingman and junior Jonathon Chu served for the victory at 7-6 as well as during a subsequent tiebreak, but the pair could not put the match away, and Chuck Perrin and Justin Hoeveler ultimately won 9-8 (8).

“It was just a little bit of a letdown,” co-captain Cliff Nguyen said. “I think Northwestern had some momentum going into the singles because they won the last doubles match.”

Indeed, the Wildcats claimed early breaks in five singles matches, while Harvard seemed to lag.

It was Chu, however, who provided the Crimson with a lift in singles after his doubles loss. Playing in the second slot, Chu overcame an early deficit to secure a 6-3, 6-1 win over Northwestern’s Christian Tempke.

The comeback was the spark Harvard needed.

“Maybe 15 minutes into the singles matches, everyone pulled around,” sophomore Brandon Chiu said. “[Chu] took an early lead, and he got the momentum back for us. We were just really loud, and the energy just kind of got the guys back into it.”

Sure enough, the Crimson caught fire. Nguyen, who had trailed in the fourth singles match 0-3, mounted a remarkable comeback and won 6-4, 6-2.

“We struggled a little bit to start,” Nguyen said, “[but] all of us were able to find a way to regroup and end strong. We definitely ended strong.”

Clinching the day’s victory was senior Chris Chiou, who won the fifth singles contest in straight sets, 6-3 and 6-3.

With the four points necessary for a win secured, Harvard coasted, winning the remaining matches going away.

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