SPORTS BRIEF: Kumar and Ermakov make quarterfinals of doubles tournament

The Harvard men’s tennis doubles duo of senior Ashwin Kumar and junior Sasha Ermakov reached the quarterfinals of the prestigious Polo Ralph Lauren All-American Tennis Championship at the University of Tulsa on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of last week, advancing two rounds past top-flight opponents in the 32-team, single-elimination tournament.

The 38th-ranked pair, which usually plays at No. 1 doubles for the Crimson, earned a spot in the tournament by winning the ITA National Summer Championships in early August.

In Kumar and Ermakov’s first match, they faced No. 12 Blake Strode and Colin Mascall from Arkansas.

Playing nervously early in the match, the Harvard team lost its serve. Down a break at 7-4, Kumar and Ermakov held their serve and then, thanks to poor serving on their opponents’ part, broke the Razorbacks.

With the match back on serve at 7-6, the Crimson pair forced a tiebreaker, which, after going down, 5-4, they eventually took, 7-5.

“The 7-5 game was the critical game,” Kumar said. “At first, we were a little nervous, a little tentative, but we just decided we’d fight for every point and put some pressure on the other guys.”

Emboldened by their success in the tournament’s opening match, Kumar and Ermakov faced Alabama’s Dan Buikema and Mathieu Thibaudeau, the fifth-ranked pairing in the nation. The Crimson pair turned the tide on the Crimson Tide, playing what Kumar called “one of the best matches we’ve ever played together” en route to a solid 8-6 victory.

In the next round, Kumar and Ermakov lost to a very strong team from Mississippi, 8-4. That duo, Erling Tveit and Jonas Berg, who are ranked No. 20 , made it to the tournament’s championship match before losing to the top-ranked squad from Virginia.

Kumar and Ermakov’s ability to prevail over some of the country’s strongest doubles pairs bodes well for their prospects at the top of Harvard’s doubles rotation for the remainder of the year.

—JONATHAN B. STEINMAN

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