M. Tennis Sweeps Ivy Roadtrip

THE CAPTAIN RETURNS
William L. Jusino

Co-captain David Lingman returned to the Crimson lineup on Saturday and won the second singles match. Harvard defeated both Columbia and Cornell over the weekend.

There were several reasons why the No. 21 Harvard men’s tennis team should have opened its Ivy League season unsuccessfully this weekend, and there were several reasons why the Crimson (12-6, 2-0 Ivy) should have struggled against Columbia and No. 63 Cornell. But who says Harvard men listen to reason?

Rather, the squad won both matches—5-2 and 6-1, respectively—in an emotional but encouraging weekend of tennis in New York.

The Crimson seemed anything but ship-shape entering the contests. The roster was all but depleted by injuries, academic commitments and deaths in several players’ families. The team was playing on the road against Ancient Eight foes. And, of course, the squad had dropped four of the last five matches in disappointing fashion.

“The coach called it the perfect storm for other teams on this trip,” said senior Chris Chiou, “because a lot of odd…things happened, some of them tragic.”

“It was a test for us this week not only emotionally, but it was a test on the road, too, against these tough teams.”

Harvard coach David Fish ’71 agreed, adding that “what we hoped to avoid—and it looked hard to avoid when we kept hearing all this bad news—was starting off [Ivy play] in a hole.”

HARVARD 5, COLUMBIA 2

“Columbia is always a tough match,” Fish said, “whether we have our whole lineup or not.”

And on Friday, the Crimson did not, but triumphed 5-2 nonetheless.

A lingering back injury sidelined co-captain Cliff Nguyen, while fellow senior Mark Riddell remained in Cambridge for academic purposes. Moreover, three Harvard players had suffered the deaths of loved ones since spring break—freshman Gideon Valkin and junior Jonathan Chu both traveled to the match against the Lions (8-6, 1-2 Ivy) but co-captain and top singles player David Lingman returned to his native California for a time.

“The coaching staff had to make some really interesting decisions,” admitted associate coach Peter Mandeau, who also did not make the New York trip.

Indeed, Chu was tapped to fill Lingman’s role at the top of the singles lineup, while freshman Jack Li—who usually occupies the fifth spot—was promoted to Chu’s usual second. And Chiou, who has recently been playing sixth, was moved to the third slot.

This meant that senior George Turner and Jason Beren—neither one of whom typically starts—were now playing in the fourth and sixth positions, respectively, with Valkin resting between them in the fifth spot.

The moves worked. Chu proved his mettle in a 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 victory, and Chiou notched a tight 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) win. Turner won 6-4, 7-5, and Valkin—who has risen to the occasion, playing in his first dual match just in March—continued to impress, taking his match 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.

Li fell 6-4, 6-3, and Beren 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, but the Crimson sealed the match with the four singles victories and the doubles point.

Of course, the doubles lineup was also atypical. Chu, in the absence of his partner Lingman, teamed up with sophomore Brandon Chiu, who normally plays with Riddell. The pair won 9-8 (5) after playing down a match point.

“The [Columbia] guys were quite talented,” Chiu said, “but we were able to win some of the bigger points near the end.”

Beren and Turner joined forces as the second duo but fell 8-5, and Chiou and Li—who played together in seven matches this season and 17 this year—reunited for a 9-8 (6) win after the Lions served for the match twice.

“I think the team did a really good job,” Fish said. “[The players] showed a lot of character to go through that emotionally and be able to come out as strong as they did.”

HARVARD 6, CORNELL 1

On Friday, the Crimson had been without either of its veteran co-captains. That night, however, Lingman flew back, just in time to rejoin his team for Saturday’s match against the Big Red (13-5, 2-1 Ivy). This demonstration of leadership and dedication did, of course, lead to more lineup changes.

Lingman won the second match 6-2, 6-3, and Li, now playing third, won 6-4, 6-1. Chiou won in the fourth slot 7-6 (4), 6-2, Turner in the fifth 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, and Valkin in the sixth 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.

Chu suffered the only singles loss, dropping the top match to the Cornell’s Zach Gallin 6-4, 6-0.

Harvard again took the doubles point, though this time Lingman played with Chiou—they won 8-5—while Turner and Beren fell 8-5, and Chu and Chiu won 8-3.

The last duo actually played together—and won the doubles title—in Harvard’s February Men’s Open, and as Lingman will soon graduate, the Chu/Chiu pairing could carry over into next year’s seasons.

“[The Open] helped our chemistry together,” Chiu said, “but we’re both very comfortable playing with each other [anyway].”

Harvard left New York with a perfect 2-0 Ivy League record, a mark which places it in a tie with Princeton for the league lead—for now.

More important than the individual victories themselves, though, was the fact that they were, according to Fish, “team victories.”

Lingman, Valkin and Chu, all playing despite an understandable reason not to, gave their team a tremendous boost.

“It was really good to see [Jonathan] out here,” Chiou said, when asked about Chu playing in the top spot. “We definitely could not have been without him this weekend. He’s been going through some tough times, too, so that [dedication] is what we’ve come to expect of him now. He’s been a rock for us.”

And Chiou himself won all four of his matches over the weekend, going a perfect 4-for-4 in tiebreaks—even though he had initially planned to remain in Cambridge and prepare for next week’s MCAT exams. As the Harvard lineup stretched thinner and thinner, though, his attendance became necessary.

“I’m glad I went,” Chiou insisted with characteristic Crimson allegiance. “I got some work done—a little bit of work done,” he quickly corrected himself with a laugh.

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