This weekend the Harvard men’s tennis team traveled to New Haven, Conn., to face rivals from all around the Northeast and the Ivy League at the Division I USTA/ITA Northeast Regional.
The tournament, hosted by Yale, was the third outing for the team this season and the first in nearly a month. Crimson players faced a tough slate in both singles and doubles, but managed to have one entry in the quarterfinals of both divisions.
Both sophomore Denis Nguyen and the doubles team of freshman Nicky Hu and co-captain Andy Nguyen bested the competition through the preliminary rounds but faltered before the semifinals.
Denis Nguyen, seeded sixth in singles, received a bye in the first round of play. He swept local foe Michael McGinnis of Boston College with straight sets, 6-4, 6-2, in the second round. In the third and fourth rounds, he took down Ivy rivals from Princeton and Columbia, respectively. Nguyen then blew away Augie Bloom, 6-3, 6-1, before being stretched to three sets against the Lions’ Dragos Ignat, whom he eventually defeated, 6-3, 5-7, 6-1.
The sophomore wasn’t quite as successful against Vasko Mladenov of St. John’s, who is currently ranked No. 38 in the nation and claimed the singles title at the ITA tournament last fall.
Nguyen began strong, but narrowly dropped the first set, 7-6. He was unable to contend with his opponent again in the second, falling 6-2.
“I had some really tough matches, and I didn’t play my best today,” Nguyen said after his faceoff with Mladenov. “I wasn’t able to win today.”
In doubles, Hu and Andy Nguyen took a bye through the Round of 64 before defeating their next two sets of opponents. The team bested Erik Kremheller and Cameron Amyot of Fairfield University, 8-3, and dismantled Dartmouth pair Xander Centernari and Cameron Ghorbani, 8-2.
“Overall, in doubles especially, I felt really confident about where we were,” Hu said. “We matched up well together. We covered each other’s weaknesses [and] played off each other’s strengths.”
The quarterfinals saw more stumbling from Harvard, as Hu and Nguyen were overpowered by the Yale duo of Marc Powers and Daniel Hoffman in an 8-6 match.
“We were really able to play some great matches together, especially against Dartmouth and even in the quarterfinals where we lost to Yale,” Hu explained. “We played a very strong team. It was a two point difference in that match and could have gone either way.”
Nguyen had encountered Powers earlier in the fourth round of singles play. After a bye round and victories over opponents from Binghamton and Cornell, Nguyen was upended by the Bulldog, who won, 6-2, 6-3.
“In regards to my singles, Powers was just better at knowing which balls to attack,” Nguyen said. “I need to work on creating these opportunities instead of sitting back on the baseline.”
The tournament was the second collegiate showing for Hu and two other freshmen, Nicholas Mahlangu and Kelvin Lam.
“I think as a team we did really well in competing our freshmen,” Denis Nguyen said. “Our three freshmen that played won a couple of rounds and showed that they were able to compete with the top guys.”