At Northeast Regionals, Clayton Finishes at the Top

The Harvard men’s tennis team and its co-captain Chris Clayton entered the Wilson/ITA Northeast Tennis Regional tournament with tremendous expectations on its shoulders. Clayton found himself the No. 1 seed in the tournament both in the singles and in the doubles, and the Crimson hoped to see its star player secure victories in both of these events.

With victories in the 96-player singles draw and the 24-pair doubles draw, the senior did just this.

Clayton played with sophomore Alexei Chijoff-Evans in the doubles draw.

Over the course of the six day event, the eastern universities’ top contenders competed at Yale University’s Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center in an attempt to qualify for the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships scheduled to be held Nov. 6-9. As its title suggests, this championship is the most prestigious collegiate tournament held each fall. With his wins yesterday, Clayton has secured himself a spot both in the singles and doubles events at Nationals.

In the process, Clayton erased sour memories of his poor performance last week at the D’Novo ITA All-American Tournament and his quarter-final loss at the Northeast Regionals last year.

In the finals of the singles event, Clayton played through cramps to defeat Columbia’s Bogdan Borta, the seventh seed in the tournament. Down 5-1 in the first set, Clayton succeeded in breaking back twice and forced Borta into a tiebreak, which Clayton seized. In the second, the tables were turned, as Borta stormed back to take the set in another close tiebreaker. The match was a toss-up at that point, but a persistent Clayton wore down his opponent with sharp angled shots and dominant rallies in the third set for a 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 win.

“This match was the best Ivy League match that I have ever seen,” assistant coach Andrew Rueb ’95 said. “It was a titanic battle. It was relentless, and they were going after each other.”

Clayton powered his way through 11 straight match wins in route to dual success on the weekend.

“Senior year you want to win. Everything just worked perfectly,” Clayton said.

He also managed to take a midterm exam between matches.

“Managing to win both the singles final and the doubles final in the biggest tournament in the fall and take an exam on top of it? Now that’s a [heck] of a 24 hour period,” Rueb said.

Compared to the tight singles final, the doubles final went much more smoothly for Clayton and Chijoff-Evans. The pair stayed in command throughout to defeat the No. 1 doubles pair from Brown, 8-2.

“We went up against a [great] team from Brown in the Finals,” Clayton said. “[But] we were white hot. We were on top of the shots.”

Clayton had nothing but praise for his teammate Chijoff-Evans’s level of play and focus throughout the tournament.

“Alexei served huge and allowed me to return solid, and he gave me perfect volley opportunities. He went up the line when he should of, went cross court when he should of,” Clayton said.

For Chijoff-Evans, it was all about focus.

“Once you just look past your own well-being and look to just get the ball past the opponent, you can really get the stampede going,” Chijoff-Evans said.

While Clayton unquestionably stole the show with his performance, the other members of the squad displayed solid performances as well.

Senior Sasha Ermakov in particular had a great run, making it to the fourth round in the singles tournament, but in the end, he was bested by third seed Peter Capkovic from Princeton in three sets (7-6, 4-6, 6-2).

Other competitors in singles for the Crimson included junior Michael Hayes, freshman Davis Mangham, and freshman Alistair Felton, all of whom went 1-1. In doubles, Hayes and Mangham lost in their first-round match, while Ermakov and junior Spencer Vegosen reached the semi-finals, an impressive collegiate debut for Vegosen.