At the start of its first road trip of the winter season, the Harvard men’s tennis team began its triple-header weekend going 1-1 against Vanderbilt and Indiana, with the victory over the Commodores. Freshman Denis Nguyen was a standout against Vanderbilt, posting a clutch performance deep in the match.
Led by a strong performance in singles play, the Crimson (4-1, 0-0 Ivy) defeated the Commodores (2-2, 0-0 SEC) on Friday afternoon, 4-3, at Currey Tennis Center. Previous to the match, Vanderbilt was ranked 32 spots above Harvard, at No. 34 nationally.
The beginning of match play didn’t go quite as planned for the Crimson, as the strong performance by the Commodores’ doubles team put the visitors in a 2-1 hole. In the first match-up of the day, senior Alistair Felton and sophomore Casey MacMaster faced Blake Bazarnik and Austin Gonzales. Vanderbilt’s duo held the lead throughout and took the match 8-5.
The second match of doubles play went decidedly better for Harvard, and Andy and Denis Nguyen, junior and freshman, respectively, beat the Commodores’ Charlie Jones and Joe Offerdahl, 8-6.
But, despite the success of Nguyen and Nguyen, the next match was dropped by the Crimson, 8-6, when sophomore Christo Schultz and freshman Henry Steer were taken down by Vanderbilt’s final doubles team.
On the singles court, it was a different story. Despite senior Jonathan Pearlman losing one of the initial matches, 6-4, 6-1, to Jones, Harvard was able to rally and, largely thanks to a resilient last-minute performance by Andy Nguyen, earn the W.
Following Pearlman’s play, freshman Alex Steinroeder handily defeated his opponent Joe Dorn, 6-1, 6-4, and Schultz captured a narrower victory over Odderdahl, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4. Next up was Steer, who lost to Bazarnik in three sets, 6-7, 6-4, 6-1.
After freshman Shaun Chaudhuri beat Alex DiValerio, 6-1, 6-4, the stage was set for the tiebreaking match-up: Denis Nguyen versus Gonzales. After losing the first set, 5-7, Nguyen managed to pull out the second, 6-4. The day’s results were thus decided on the third and final set. Nguyen was put to the test of match point five times in that round but, ultimately, defeated Gonzales, 7-5, and earned Harvard the 4-3 win.
Despite gaining momentum against Commodores, the Crimson struggled against No. 27 Indiana (4-2), and lost overall by a score of 5-2 on Saturday.
Doubles play once again proved to give Harvard the majority of its trouble, as the Hoosiers managed to take all three of the matches. First up were Felton and MacMaster who once again fell to their opponents in a tiebreaker, 9-8. Nguyen and Nguyen followed their teammates loss with a defeat of their own, 8-6, and the pattern was continued by Streinroeder and Pearlman with a score of 8-5.
But the Crimson scratched first on the scoreboard when it came to singles. Chaudhuri won his second singles match in two days, 6-2, 6-3, as did teammate Steinroeder who beat Dimitrije Tasic, 6-3, 6-2. Those points would prove to be the last for the Crimson, as Pearlman, Nguyen, and Felton all lost their singles matchups despite the fact that the Nguyen and Felton forced their respective competitions into three sets.
Harvard heads to Butler on Sunday to complete the triple-header.
—Staff writer Juliet Spies-Gans can be reached at email@example.com.