In lieu of participating in the 375th festivities, selected players of the Harvard men’s tennis team were hard at work, playing a combined total of 20 matches against some of the best college tennis players the Northeast has to offer.
More players on the court spelled more success for the squad at the ITA Men’s Northeast Regional Championship in Ithaca, N.Y. this past weekend. While the Crimson’s singles players faltered early in the tournament, lasting from last Thursday until yesterday, its doubles players achieved success, with one doubles team reaching the finals in a field of 64 teams.
Co-captain Alistair Felton and sophomore Casey MacMaster lost in the finals to Princeton’s Matt Slow and Matt Spindler. The duo’s trip to the finals came as a bit of a surprise to the field, or at least to the drawmakers, who had the pair seeded third.
But the run to the finals was still bittersweet for the Crimson.
“Although Casey and I made the final of the doubles, it was somewhat disappointing because only the winner goes through to nationals,” Felton said. “We didn’t play badly, but the Princeton team just played one amazing return game.”
Felton and MacMaster’s toughest challenge en route to the championship came from the duo of Milo Hauk and Gustav Kallen from St. John's, who took them to a tiebreak, which Harvard won, 7-3.
The eighth-ranked pairing of junior Andy Nguyen and freshman Denis Nguyen also had a relatively strong showing, losing a 9-7 match to Yale’s top team, Daniel Hoffman and Mark Powers—the tournament’s second seed.
Of the six Crimson singles competitors, four of them—Felton, MacMaster, and freshmen Shaun Chaudhuri and Alex Steinroeder—lost in the Round of 64. Only Steinroeder, seeded ninth, was favored to win his Round of 64 matchup. He fell in straight sets to freshman Quoc-Daniel Nguyen of Cornell who advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to sixth-seeded Powers.
The remaining two singles players, senior Jonathan Pearlman, the top seed in the tournament, and Denis Nguyen, lasted until the round of 16 where they each fell in closely contested matches. Pearlman’s matchup went to the third set where 17th-seeded Ivan Turudic of Penn had just one break too many.
“I’m not upset with the loss,” Pearlman said of the three-hour marathon match. “It was obviously disappointing given the ranking … I give my opponent a lot of credit. He was serving very well.”
According to Pearlman, the singles team, which has not won the Ivy League title since before the senior class’ time, still has a long way to go in order to be competitive in the spring.
“I think the team as a whole is doing well, but from a singles standpoint the team is going to need to get a lot sharper,” Pearlman said. “Guys need to keep working on their game and improve to get to where the team needs to be.”
Besides Felton and MacMaster’s, performance, Denis Nguyen was the standout of the tournament with a strong showing in both the singles and doubles draws. With a backhand that literally took the racquet out of his Yale opponent’s hands, the Anaheim native displayed his characteristic power and pizzazz.
According to team members, the speed of Cornell’s indoor courts, unusual for courts in the Northeast, was also an obstacle for the team, which is just starting its indoor season.
Like Felton and Macmaster’s finals match, the sentiment is bittersweet for the Crimson right now, but things are looking up.
“I think our team is looking a little better in doubles,” Felton said. “But overall, I’m confident that we can put together a strong charge in the Ivies this year, having seen the opposition this week.”