Men's Tennis Rookies Shine in Collegiate Opener

Nida Naushad

Sophomore Henry Steer, pictured here in earlier action, was the No. 1 seed in his singles bracket at the USTA College Invitational this weekend in Flushing, N.Y. In his first-round match, Steer fell in a super tiebreak.

The Harvard men’s tennis team hit the road this past weekend to open its first competitive play of the year, contending in a pair of tournaments in New York and California.

Most of the team traveled to play in the USTA College Invitational in Flushing, N.Y., against players from other northeastern schools, including Ivy League competitors Yale, Columbia, Princeton, and Dartmouth. Meanwhile four players from the team traveled across the country to play in the Napa Valley Tournament against players from some of the top Division I schools in the nation.

USTA COLLEGE INVITATIONAL

At the USTA College Invitational, Crimson players competed in a ladder tournament in both singles and doubles.

“[The freshmen] played really well and handled the situation well,” co-captain Andy Nguyen said. “It was really just about getting out there and playing matches, really, nothing more—getting out there to tune things up”

Freshman Nicholas Hu made it the farthest of any Crimson player, winning his first match of the day, 6-0, 6-1, against Justin Hagan from Sacred Heart. He later upset the No. 4 seed, Bert Vancura, 6-3, 6-1, before eventually losing in the semifinals to the No. 1 seed, Mike Lampa, 6-2, 7-6 (2). Sophomore Henry Steer and junior Brendan Seaver both faced off against Princeton players in their first round matches, getting a chance to play Ivy League rivals before conference play begins in the spring.

Steer, the No. 1 seed in his bracket, split sets against the Tigers’ Augie Bloom before falling in a super tiebreak, 4-6, 7-5 (10-1). Seaver, playing Benjamin Quazzo, was barely edged out as well, losing in a super tiebreak, 6-1, 3-6 (10-8).

In doubles, Harvard was more successful. The tandem of Freshman Nicholas Mahlangu and Nguyen, seeded third in the top flight, won its two opening matches before falling to a Fairfield doubles team, 8-2. Seaver and Steer did just as well, advancing to the quarterfinals in their bracket, before losing, 8-6, to Billy Bishop and Dalen Klassen from Marist. Hu and Kevin Lam, seeded third in their flight, lost in the first round, 8-6, to their Yale counterparts, but gained some valuable experience, according to Nguyen.

“We’re sort of just trying to get the positions down,” Nguyen said. “Some of the freshmen are a little inexperienced with the doubles plays we have, so we just needed this weekend to work on doubles finishing and little things.”

NAPA VALLEY TOURNAMENT

Junior co-captain Casey MacMaster and sophomores Shaun Chaudhuri, Denis Nguyen and Alex Steinroeder traveled to Napa Valley to compete against a fleet of schools, including California, Texas, Stanford, Georgia, and Illinois. The winner of the tournament automatically qualified for a wild-card spot in a United States Tennis Association Pro Circuit event. The classic invited eight of the top under-18 ranked players in the nation.

“It was kind of a blast from the past,” McMaster said. “A lot of our recruits were high ranked juniors so it was good that we got to play against them. I was very impressed with the level of play they brought out to college matches.”

The first day featured a string of Crimson losses. Steinroeder and Denis Nguyen both fell to players from University of Texas, with Steinroeder falling, 6-1, 6-1 to Sudanwa Sitaram and Nguyen losing, 6-3, 7-5 to Soren Hess-Olesen. MacMaster and Chaudhuri both lost in three sets, MacMaster to Brian Page from Illinois and Chaudhuri to Robbie Bellamy, a junior currently ranked 11th in the country among his age cohort.

In doubles, Chaudhuri and Steinroder fell, 9-7, to junior players Jack Murray and Joseph Digiulio, although the tandem of Nguyen and Macmaster defeated Lloyd Glasspool and Hess Olesen, 9-8(7), from Texas.

“I thought we played really well considering how we had no match play so far going into it,” sophomore Denis Nguyen said. “We lacked match experience, and that’s something we’re going to have to work on [after we get back].”

The second day of play brought with it similar defeats as each of the four Harvard players was knocked off in two sets. In doubles, Steinroeder and Chaudhuri fell to Brian Page and Stephen Hoh from the University of Illinois, 8-4.

The third and last day of competition saw Steinroeder, Chaudhuri, and Nguyen go up against three of the top ranked players in the competition, with each player losing in three long sets.

“I was really happy with our team, especially going into our first tournament and having to go up against the top three or four players in the country as well as some of the best teams that were out here this weekend,” MacMaster said. “Even without a lot of match experience, it was good that we could go out there and hang with those guys.”

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