Playing singles on the No. 2 court at any point in college signals that you are one of the most skilled players on the team. As a freshman, it’s almost unheard of—and just that much more impressive.
That is the case for Denis Nguyen, a rookie out of Anaheim, Calif., playing for the Harvard men’s tennis team. On the year, Nguyen has played all but one match in the No. 2 singles position, winning almost 80 percent of the time.
“When Denis came in, we saw that he had the potential to be a great player for us this season,” co-captain Alistair Felton says. “He’s really put the hard work in and stayed focused in order to fill his potential this year. Most impressive, I think, has been his poise and calmness in tight situations.”
One of the first showings of Nguyen’s importance to the team came on Feb. 3 in a 4-3 win over Vanderbilt.
It was the Crimson’s opening road trip of the winter season, and the team was facing a possible first loss of the year. The match was tied, three apiece, when Nguyen began to take control.
After dropping the first set, 5-7, Nguyen began to mount a comeback, point by point. He won the second set, 6-4, and, after saving five match points, was able to take the lead in the third and the eventual win, 7-5.
On April 28, a win against Dartmouth and the Ivy title all came down to the freshman in a similar manner. Nguyen, on that day, broke a three-all tie when he rallied back from that same 5-7 first-set loss that he faced against the Commodores. Over two and a half hours after singles play began, Nguyen brought home the championship for his team.
Throughout the season, Nguyen has been one of only three players on the team who consistently took part in both singles and doubles play.
He has spent much of the season paired up with junior Andy Nguyen (unrelated), and together, the duo has gone 25-7.
The freshman attributes much of his success this year to his growing strength and agility.
“I definitely think I grew physically,” Nguyen explains. “In both the weight room and conditioning, we worked really hard. It helped me improve my overall game, and, [in doubles], especially my net game.”
And since Jonathan Pearlman, the current holder of the No. 1 position, is graduating, it looks as if both Nguyen’s play and court number will be even higher next season.
—Staff writer Juliet Spies-Gans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.