What hockey playoffs? What basketball season finale? In a weekend chock-full of Crimson sports, the No. 16 Harvard men’s tennis team put on a show of its own for the fans gathered in the gallery of the Murr Center, pounding its way to victories over No. 58 New Mexico and Furman.
Before a sizeable assembly of friends and family, the Crimson (6-2) defeated the Lobos 6-1 on Friday night and topped the Paladins 7-0 the following evening.
Though Harvard showed small hiccups both times, the team ended the weekend on a strong note, giving the noteworthy crowd something worth cheering.
HARVARD 6, NEW MEXICO 1
The Crimson started out uncharacteristically slowly on Friday night, losing the doubles point for only the second time this season.
The No. 25 duo of co-captain David Lingman and junior Jonathan Chu rolled to a relatively smooth 8-4 victory, but Harvard, looking somewhat flat, lost the second and third matches, giving New Mexico its first and only point of the night.
“We’ve won most of the doubles points this year and always started slow in the singles,” senior Chris Chiou said. “Today, we lost the doubles point...but we made sure that we were ready to go [in singles].”
Sure enough, after a brief team huddle, the team stormed the courts, jump-started by the doubles losses. Harvard dominated the Lobos (4-3) in singles play, taking all six opening sets for the first time this year and winning every match in straight sets.
Though he had lost his doubles match with freshman partner Jack Li by a 4-8 mark, Chiou notched the first point for Harvard, winning the sixth singles match 6-3, 6-0.
“He got discouraged [in the second set],” Chiou said. “That helped, [but] I played well. He started missing a lot of passing shots and wasn’t making many balls from the back.”
Next for Harvard was Chu, who played in the second singles slot with self-described “early jitters” before the home crowd. He held on to win the first set 7-5, though, and then steamrolled his opponent for a 6-0 second set.
“I just decided I’d let go and swing through it [in the second],” Chu said of his outburst.
Following Chu’s win was that of co-captain Cliff Nguyen, who showed a practiced touch from both the net and the baseline in a 6-2, 7-6 (3) victory in the fourth slot.
It was Li, however, who clinched the overall victory for Harvard with a 6-3, 6-4 win in front of his own personal cheering section—the “Jack-Pack,” as associate coach Peter Mandeau cheerfully christened it.
With the team win assured, No. 48 Lingman enjoyed a solid 6-3, 6-4 victory over New Mexico’s No. 29 Divan Coetzee.
Senior Mark Riddell—who lost his doubles match with partner Brandon Chiu in disappointing 8-6 fashion—hung on for a 6-2, 7-6 (4) victory to complete the singles sweep. Riddell had run away with the first set and held a 4-2 advantage in the second but needed a tiebreak for the victory.
HARVARD 7, FURMAN 0
This time there was no fooling around, as Harvard swept both the doubles and the singles competitions to hand Furman (1-7) a bagel.
With senior George Turner and junior Jason Beren now playing at the third doubles match, the squad seemed recharged.
“I was happy with the energy level that our team came with,” Fish said. “[Against the Lobos], I thought we were a little flat. And certainly [Turner and Beren] came out, [and we got] a lot of energy out of that.”
The three doubles pairs won their matches within a three-minute span, and Harvard—for the first time in a long while—translated the doubles success into a quick singles start.
Chu took his singles match 6-1, 6-1, and Riddell wasn’t far behind with a 6-2, 6-2 effort in the third slot. Clinching the dual match was Lingman, with a 6-2, 6-2 victory of his own.
“To have David [Lingman] and Jonathan [Chu] and Mark [Riddell] come right out of the blocks hard makes it very hard for [the other] team to recover,” Fish said.
Indeed, Li held on 6-2, 7-5 for the fifth singles match, and Turner, playing in the sixth spot, lost the first set 5-7 before taking the second 6-1 and winning with an abbreviated third.
Playing the fourth singles match, Nguyen won his first set 6-2 with steady play but fell behind 1-5 in the second. Nguyen mounted an impressive comeback, however, forcing a second-set tiebreak, which he promptly won by a 7-4 count.
“Good weekend,” Fish said, acknowledging the audible crowd which had supported the players. “The goal is [always] to play with that kind of energy, because we know that we can’t compete with any of the stronger teams unless we have that.”
The Crimson will get to work on that energy over the next two weekends, during which the team will play the Blue Gray Invitational in Alabama and the March Men’s Open at home—though both events will not affect Harvard’s record.
After that, the squad is headed west to take on No. 29 California and No. 4 Stanford.