Sophomore Beier Ko, seen here in earlier action, was the sole representative from the Ivy League in the NCAA Women’s Tennis Singles Championship. Despite a valient effort, the Crimson’s star fell to Virginia Commonwealth star Tatsiana Uvarova in three set
For the fourth year in a row, the Harvard women’s tennis team sent the Ivy League’s sole representative to the NCAA Women’s Tennis Singles Championship, but for the fourth consecutive time that player bowed out in the first round.
No. 77 sophomore Beier Ko, who went 19-5 this season playing primarily in the Crimson’s top singles slot, lost 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 to No. 29 junior Tatsiana Uvarova of Virginia Commonwealth at Georgia’s Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
Uvarova advanced to the quarterfinals of the tournament last year and entered the match with an 11-2 singles record this year.
A native of Belarus, Uvarova has competed in many professional tournaments in Eastern Europe, dating back to 2000. In 2004, Uvarova defeated Russian Anna Chakvetadze in a tournament in France. Chakvetadze currently is ranked No. 10 in the world. While Ko does not have nearly as much professional experience as Uvarova, she has competed in several ITF Women’s Circuit tournaments in the U.S., along with representing Singapore this spring in New Zealand in the international Fed Cup.
Uvarova quickly proved to be a tough matchup for Ko, as the Harvard player fell behind 2-0 in the first set before rallying to tie the score at two-all. Uvarova’s strong play earned her the next four games and the first set.
Ko trailed yet again in the second set, this time 2-1, before reeling off four consecutive games to seize a 5-2 lead. Uvarova came back to 5-3, but committed several forehand errors to give Ko the set 6-3.
“I thought it was a tough match,” Ko said. “The girl is really a great competitor.”
Ko went down early to Uvarova again in the third set. Ko lost the first game at love, despite being on serve, then committed several unforced errors to lose the second. She then tied the set at 2-2 by attacking Uvarova’s forehand. Each player subsequently broke the other’s serve to tie the match at 3-3.
At this point, the 85 degree heat—a far cry from the weather in Cambridge—seemed to get to Ko, according to Harvard head coach Gordon Graham.
Ko lost her serve to go down 4-3, then failed to break Uvarova’s serve. Needing to hold serve to stay in the match, she initially went up 30-15. However, three straight forehand errors by Ko gave Uvarova the game and the match.
“The heat was on and it was really hot outside,” Ko said. “She fought really hard, especially in the third set.”
Uvarova fell in the tournament’s second round to No. 13 Georgia Rose of Northwestern. Ko likely would have played Rose in March, but the match between the Crimson and the Wildcats was cancelled when bad weather led to airport delays in Chicago.
The loss marks the end of the season for the Harvard squad.
—Staff writer Tyler D. Sipprelle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.