Men's Tennis Hits Full Stride Against Bulls

Kara A Culligan

The Crimson ended South Florida’s three-match win streak yesterday behind a trifecta of three-set victories. Sophomore Chris Clayton, shown here in earlier action, led the way with a 2-6, 7-5, 7-5 comeback win.

The Harvard men’s tennis team beat South Florida (USF) for the first time in Crimson tennis history yesterday morning, coming away with a 5-2 victory.

Co-captain Gideon Valkin helped seal the Crimson’s fate with a key contest against Daniel Daudt at No. 5 singles.

Valkin came from one set down to win, 6-7, 7-5, 6-1, giving Harvard the victory over USF.

“He finally exhausted his opponent,” Crimson coach Dave Fish ’72 said.

Sophomore Chris Clayton, who played at No. 1 singles, beat opponent Ales Svigelj, 2-6, 7-5, 7-5 in a heated match to help clinch the win for Harvard.

“Clayton’s match was a huge one because the No. 1 guy was just crushing the ball,” Fish said.

These two victories helped the Crimson rebound after it started the match poorly by losing the doubles point.

The No. 2 doubles team of juniors Dan Nguyen and Kieran Burke lost to Svigelj and Marc Jaeger, 8-1, and at No. 3, co-captain Scott Denenberg and freshman Michael Hayes lost to the Bulls’ Thomas Estrada and Mahmoud Hamed, 8-5.

At No. 1 doubles, Valkin and junior Ashwin Kumar picked up Harvard’s lone doubles win with a score of 8-6, coming back from an early 1-6 deficit.

“They were very strong,” Fish said of the Bulls. “That’s usually not a good sign when you lose the doubles point.”

However, it wasn’t long before the Crimson battled back and won five of the six singles matches.

Nguyen won his No. 3 singles match in straight sets over Henning Hip, 6-2, 6-4, as did Kumar at No. 4, with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over Estrada.

Both wins were very quick and helped reverse the Crimson’s momentum.

At No. 6 singles, junior Gareth Doran, who was playing his first match back after an injury, also won, 6-3, 0-6, 6-3, to put Harvard up 3-1.

The lone singles loss came at No. 2, where Denenberg fell to Jaeger, 5-7, 7-5, 0-1 (4).

However, Denenberg was still very pleased with his performance.

“I was playing some of the best tennis of my life,” Denenberg said.

Also pleasing to Denenberg was his team’s ability to transition from indoor to outdoor tennis, something that has always troubled him.

“The fact that we were able to transition to outdoor tennis was pretty impressive,” Denenberg said.

This ability was especially important in yesterday’s match, as USF plays outdoor tennis year round, giving the Bulls a key advantage over the Crimson.

Harvard’s outstanding showing in Tampa over USF, which was previously on a three-match winning streak, bodes well for the rest of the season.

“Looking up and down the lineup, everyone played extremely well today,” Denenberg said. “It’s a sign that shows the hard work that we’ve been putting into the season, and hopefully everything will go well from here.”

The Crimson will take on No. 3 Virginia on Wednesday before heading to California on March 26.