The Harvard men’s tennis team split its pair of games this weekend, dropping its season opener at the Murr Center to a strong Northwestern team (3-0) on Friday, 6-1, then bouncing back to defeat Purdue (1-2) by a score of 5-2. The Crimson (1-1) was fueled by strong performances by its doubles duo of junior Jonathan Pearlman and freshman Casey MacMaster, who went undefeated this weekend.
HARVARD 5, PURDUE 2
The Crimson made some adjustments to its lineup and bounced back from the previous day’s loss to defeat Boilermakers on Saturday by a score of 5-2. “It was just the small things,” Tchan said of the change, “Just being more ready, more alert, and more focused.”
In contrast to its first contest, Harvard dominated from the beginning, sweeping all three doubles matches to earn a 1-0 lead.
“They were a younger team,” said Crimson coach Dave Fish about Purdue’s doubles. “The players were not as well trained in their doubles, and we jumped on them.”
In the singles matches, the home team took down Purdue in the No. 1, 3, 4, and 6 spots. Senior Alexei Chijoff-Evans shook off a narrow loss the day before to thoroughly dominate his Purdue opponent—senior Eric Ramos—winning in straight sets with a combination of strong serves and accurate down-the-line backhands. Pearlman and senior Aba Omodele-Lucien also continued their solid performances by winning singles matches.
“[Alexei] got his first win in some time,” Fish said, “and Aba and Pearlman continued their leadership on the court.”
Despite a tremendous amount of effort on both players’ parts, sophomore Joshua Tchan and junior Alistair Felton lost tough matches that ended in tiebreakers.
“[Felton’s] match was so much fun to watch,” Fish said. “Alistair has just gotten better and better competitively.”
“I started off really slowly,” Tchan said. “My opponent played well in the beginning, and I was playing catch up the entire game. Some shots got lucky, and unfortunately, I didn’t get my way.”
No. 59 NORTHWESTERN 6, HARVARD 1
Harvard came out sluggish against a very strong Wildcats team, ranked No. 59 in the nation. From the very beginning, Northwestern’s doubles dominated the court, winning two out of three sets to take the 1-0 lead.
“They were well-coached,” Fish said. “Their doubles jumped on us every fast. They came on very strong…they got breaks on all three of our teams, and we were playing catch up.”
Although each match was very close, Pearlman and MacMaster were the only victors for the Crimson in the doubles, as they defeated the Wildcats’ Eric Spector and Chris Jackman, 8-5.
The duo of Felton and sophomore Andy Nguyen fell to Northwestern’s Joshua Graves and Spencer Wolf, 8-5. Finally, Omodele-Lucien and Tchan lost to the Wildcats’ Tobias Reitz and Andrew McCarthy, 8-6.
“They just were able to run harder than we were,” Fish said. “Although we played with them, we couldn’t play past them.”
“In the beginning of the doubles, we were caught off guard a little bit,” Tchan added. “It took us a while to get adjusted…Everyone was just trying to find their ground on the courts.”
Northwestern expanded the lead in the singles, sweeping all but No. 5 singles to win by a final score of 6-1. Omodele-Lucien was the only winner for Harvard, as he defeated freshman Raleigh Smith, 7-6, 7-6. Despite finding himself down, 4-0, in the first set, Omdoele-Lucien stormed back, breaking Smith three times and eventually winning the set in a tiebreaker. He carried his momentum into the second set, and in a match that went down to the wire, Omdoele-Lucien managed to pull out a tough victory in another tiebreaker.
Pearlman, who dropped his first set to Graves, 6-3, before storming back to take the second set, 7-5, lost in a lengthy 10-6 tiebreaker.
—Staff writer James Yu can be reached at email@example.com.