It may not be as exciting as the final of a Grand Slam tournament, but the Harvard men’s tennis team still proved it can provide exciting action and keep its fans on the edge of their seats.
In an evening match on Friday, the Crimson faced off against Binghamton at the Murr Tennis Center in the squad’s first home match in two weeks. Harvard (7-6) was on the brink of defeat in many of its matches against Binghamton, but pulled itself from the brink of defeat each time to pull out a 5-2 victory over the Bearcats.
“I think the team did great because Binghamton is a hard team to beat,” junior Ali Felton said. “It was the end of a long week...we worked hard on conditioning, and [the win] was what we’ve been working hard for.”
Harvard started things off by winning the doubles point to take an early lead over Binghamton.
Junior Jon Pearlman and sophomore Josh Tchan began with a relatively comfortable win over their opponents in the first doubles match. From the get-go, the Crimson duo dominated its opponents, breaking the pair from Binghamton three times to race out to a 7-1 lead.
In the ninth game, Pearlman and Tchan had a match point, but a big serve from the Bearcats quickly erased the opportunity. The Binghamton duo made a bit of a resurgence by winning the next two games, but Pearlman and Tchan stopped any chance of a comeback in the 11th game, sealing the first victory for Crimson, 8-3.
“I think that we were really able to prepare playing against Louisville the weekend before,” Tchan said. “For Jon and I, we kind of figured out what works for us in terms of working together.”
Senior Alexei Chijoff-Evans and freshman Casey MacMaster were not as fortunate, losing, 8-3, to Alexandre Haggai and Arnav Jain. The Harvard pair was broken early in the match and never recovered from the deficit. Down 7-4, MacMaster made a few great shots to bring the game back to deuce, but the Bearcats eventually sealed the win when the rookie shot sailed over the baseline.
With one win and one loss for Harvard, the doubles point came down to Felton and sophomore Andy Nguyen’s match. Felton and Nguyen had a rough start to match, getting broken early and finding themselves down, 6-4. Their opponents had a point to go up, 7-4, but Nguyen pulled off a solid volley to erase the game point.
The Harvard duo continued from this momentum, evening the score at six games apiece. Both teams held serve for the next four games, sending the match into a tiebreak. In the breaker, Binghamton won the first point, but the Crimson swept the next seven points to wrap up a thrilling 9-8 victory.
“We just kept fighting,” Felton said. “We’ve been in that position before and by the end of the match, we were playing really well.”
The singles also did not fail to disappoint. Harvard won four out of its six matches on the way to the 5-2 victory over the Bearcats, two pushing Crimson players into the final set.
Nguyen found himself in another battle in his singles matchup against Haggai. Nguyen cruised through the first set, 6-2, but lost the second in a tiebreak. The two seemed evenly matched going into the third set, but Nguyen had a little more left in the tank to earn the victory, 6-3 in the third.
Tchan also pulled out a tight three-setter to earn another point for the Crimson. Similarly to Nguyen’s match, Tchan won the first set 6-3, but dropped the second, 7-5. Despite his opponent carrying the momentum from winning the previous set, Tchan prevailed 6-4 in the third.
“Going into third set, I just said to myself ‘I’m not playing that well, but maybe I can be more energetic than my opponent,” Tchan said. “It took me a while to come back, but eventually it came out in favor.”
—Staff writer Steven T. A. Roach can be reached at email@example.com.