With only two hours of rest between the semifinal and final, the Harvard men’s tennis team (13-1) dug deep to win the Hilton Mission Valley Spring Classic at the Hogan Tennis Center in San Diego, Calif. on Thursday and Friday.
The victory puts the Crimson on a strong path going into the heart of its spring season.
“We have a lot of confidence moving forward, especially playing outdoors, as a result of this week,” Felton said. “The matches have been tough, and it has been a great learning experience and will help in the Ivy League matches.”
HARVARD 4, NO. 16 UNIVERSITY OF SAN DIEGO 2
Though originally scheduled for Saturday, the final against the University of San Diego was moved up to Friday evening due to the weather, forcing the team to play almost 10 hours of tennis.
“We were relieved after the semi-final, and we left the premises right away to get food,” freshman Denis Nguyen said. “We were able to soak in the win for an hour. We regrouped, refocused, and warmed up again. It was tough.”
Barring a tie, the six singles matches were set to determine the winner of the tournament. The first four matches were split two each for the Crimson and the Toreros. Senior Jonathan Pearlman and Denis Nguyen lost at No. 1 and No. 2, dropping their matches in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2 and 6-3, 6-4, respectively.
But sophomore No. 3 Christo Schultz and freshmen No. 4 Shaun Chadhuri evened out the score for Harvard. Schultz beat sophomore Clarke Spinosa 6-2, 7-6, while Chadhuri won against junior Thibaut Visy, 6-3, 6-4.
With the score tied, freshmen No. 5 Alex Steinroder and No. 6 Henry Steer took to the courts. Steer dominated his match, sweeping freshman Andrew Carlisle, 6-0, 6-0.
Determining whether or not doubles play would be necessary as a tiebreaker, the finals came down to the three-set match between Steinroder and freshman Ciaran Fitzgerald. Steinroder took the first set in a convincing fashion, 6-0. But Fitzgerald came back to take the second set, 6-4. In the decisive final set, Steinroder outplayed his counterpart in a tight 6-4 set to win the championship for the team.
“The win against San Diego in the final is one of the most amazing Harvard tennis performances in a long time,” senior captain Alistair Felton said. “We played well against a great team on their home court. It was astonishing that we won—a Herculean effort from the team.”
HARVARD 4, SAN DIEGO STATE 3
In order to clinch the berth to the championship match, the Crimson needed to win a do-or-die doubles match in its semifinal clash with San Diego State. With the score tied at three matches each, Harvard’s doubles duo of Schultz and Pearlman avenged their earlier singles losses to win in a tiebreaker over the Aztecs’ Rickey Baylon and Spencer Simon.
“Luckily, Christo and Pearlman pulled it out,” Nguyen said. “They were down in the tiebreak and had to fight back and stay in the match. They stayed mentally tough. Hats off to them. It came down to one point—that’s how close it was.”
To reach this point, however, Harvard and San Diego State battled back and forth in the eight other matches. The contest began with singles play, with the doubles point deciding the match in the event of a tie.