Crimson wasn’t able to stem Crimson Tide as the Harvard men’s tennis team (2-2) fell to the University of Alabama (6-1), 4-1, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Sunday. The loss followed the Crimson’s a 4-0 sweep of St. John’s (0-5) to open the day.
Co-captain Andy Nguyen captured the sole singles victory against the Crimson Tide and teamed up with freshman Nicky Hu at the No. 2 position to win the tiebreaker for the doubles point against the Red Storm.
St. John’s opened the afternoon with the pair of sophomore Mark Mozer and rookie Michael-John Every dispatching Harvard’s freshman Conor Haughey and sophomore Shaun Chaudhuri, 8-6, in the No. 3 slot. Playing at No. 1, sophomore tandem Denis Nguyen and Alex Steinroeder responded by edging seniors Valentin Mihai and Mike Lampa, 9-8, with a 7-5 tiebreaker. The pressure was then on Nguyen and Hu to deliver to capture the doubles point for the Crimson.
“It was a really close match,” Hu said. “Early on in all three of the doubles matches we had, we got down early and it wasn’t looking very bright. Their teams were playing really well.”
Hu and Nguyen held on to defeat senior Vasko Mladenov and sophomore Hugo Morth, 9-8, with a 10-8 tiebreaker and take the opening point for Harvard.
“The last game of the match, we ended up winning that point on deuce,” Hu said. “It gave us a little bit of momentum going to the tiebreaker at seven-all. At tiebreak we saved a couple more match points, and Andy came up with a couple big shots that gave us momentum going into the tiebreak where we saved two or three match points, and they saved two or three match points before we finally won it.”
Starting singles play, No. 2 Shaun Chaudhari took his match with Mihai in straight sets, 6-0, 6-2, to give Harvard a 2-0 advantage.
“My main goal was playing consistent,” Chaudhari said. “Not really going for too much but just kind of playing my game and playing a solid match.”
The Crimson reached a 3-0 edge as No. 1 Denis Nguyen downed Mladenov, 6-3, 6-4. Harvard clinched the match with a win from freshman Kelvin Lam. While Lam easily took the first set, 6-1, Morth rallied to take the second, but Lam prevailed in the third, 7-6.
Harvard’s evening match-up proved more challenging. Alabama, which opened its day with a 5-2 victory over Cornell, jumped to an early lead in doubles play.
Tide junior Carlos Taborga and sophomore Philippe Tsangarides defeated Haughey and Lam at the No. 3 spot, 8-4. Their teammates, Jarryd Botha, ranked No. 79 in the country, and freshman Becker O’Shaughnessey, took down Denis Nguyen and Steinroeder, 8-5.
Alabama continued to dominate in singles. The Tide opened with junior Daniil Proskura defeating Steinroeder at No. 3, 6-3, 6-3. Botha followed up with a win over Chaudhuri. While the first set stayed tight, the Tide senior dismantled Chaudhuri in the second, 6-3.
“It was a tough match,” Chaudhari said. “They’re a great team, and they all fought really hard. We just came up a little short that day.”
While Alabama led the match, 3-0, all was not lost for Harvard, as Andy Nguyen nearly blanked his opponent, sophomore David Vieyra, in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2. Nguyen was the only player from the Crimson to put up points against the Tide.
At the No. 1 position, Denis Nguyen battled O’Shaughnessey with the chance for Harvard to hold on in the contest and push it to six matches. Nguyen took the first set, 6-4, but was barely edged in the next two, 7-5, 7-6(2).
“Overall it was a good day for us,” Hu said. “We played the entire day very shorthanded. A lot of our team has been injured at the beginning of this season but for what we had we did really well…. Although we lost, we took something positive out of it because everybody fought really hard.“
Injuries, which have plagued the team for the whole season, are something Harvard hopes to avoid as it nears the start of Ivy League play.
“We were shorthanded,” Hu said. “Not because everyone is injured to the point where they can’t play, but to the point where we believe it’s not worth it to put people out there because they could seriously injure themselves. We know the most important time is going to be the Ivy League season, and when that comes around, we want everyone to be one hundred percent healthy and one hundred percent ready to take it.”
—Staff writer Cordelia F. Mendez can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @CrimsonCordelia.