Last season, the Harvard men’s tennis team took home the title at the Mission Valley Spring Classic, defeating Drake. This year, the Crimson again reached the final, but failed to defend its crown as the same Bulldogs got their revenge in the rematch.
The No. 28 Crimson (10-5) breezed through the first rounds of the Mission Valley Spring Classic, defeating Denver, 4-1, and blanking host San Diego, 4-0, to earn a berth in the championship.
Last year, Harvard took down No. 43 Drake (14-5) by a score of 4-2. But it was not to be this year, as the Bulldogs upset the Crimson, 4-1, on Saturday afternoon to close out the tournament.
“It’s obviously disappointing when you’re not able to go all the way after having won the championship last year,” junior Shaun Chaudhuri said. “But we played three high quality teams and competed well against them all week. We just came up a little short in the finals.”
DRAKE 4, HARVARD 1
In last season’s matchup, Harvard jumped out to a hot start by claiming two doubles matches in quick succession. In this edition, the Bulldogs returned the favor.
To open the match, freshman Sebastian Beltrame and junior co-captain Alex Steinroeder fell in a close match on the third court, 8-7(4).
Drake’s Robin Goodman and Ben Lott upset the Crimson’s top tandem of junior Denis Nguyen and co-captain Casey MacMaster—ranked sixth nationally—in an 8-5 win to hand the Bulldogs a 1-0 advantage.
In singles, No. 37 Nguyen opened up with a 6-2, 6-0 victory, but it was all downhill from there for Harvard. Beltrame and Chaudhuri each went down in straight sets to give Drake a 3-1 lead, and then the Bulldogs’ Matt Frost beat freshman Brian Yeung in three on the fourth court to end the Crimson’s hopes for a repeat.
“Drake was a very tricky opponent, and has been strong all year,” Chaudhuri said. “They came out pretty fast in doubles, and then in singles they took it to us on almost all the courts. They just played better on this given day.”
HARVARD 4, SAN DIEGO 0
Harvard’s semifinal matchup went more smoothly than the championship, as the Crimson easily downed the No. 61 Toreros (8-6) on their home courts, 4-0.
This time, it was Harvard that showcased its doubles strength. Yeung and Steinroeder took an 8-5 win on court two, and junior Christo Schultz and Beltrame followed that up with an 8-1 victory to give the Crimson a 1-0 lead.
In singles, freshman Andrew Ball won, 6-4, 6-0, and Chaudhuri took a 7-6(4), 6-4 victory. Beltrame dropped one set, but otherwise had no trouble closing the match out with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 win.
“It’s always hard to take on a team on their home court,” Chaudhuri said. “But we competed well and were able to come out on top.”
HARVARD 4, DENVER 1
On Thursday, Harvard opened the tournament with a 4-1 win over No. 73 Denver (6-8), which would lose all three of its matches in San Diego.
The Crimson got off to another hot start, with Nguyen and MacMaster clinching an easy 8-3 win. Schultz and Beltrame then won by the same score to take home the doubles point.
In singles, Beltrame fell on court two, but Harvard turned things around from there. Steinroeder won, 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-3 on the fifth court, and Ball clinched a 6-2, 6-2 win. Yeung then rebounded from an early hole to pull out the 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory and finish off the Pioneers.
With the spring break tournament in the rearview mirror, Harvard has just one match against the St. John’s Red Storm before diving into Ivy League play. The Crimson will be shooting for its third straight conference crown.
“We’ve had a good year so far,” Chaudhuri said. “We’ve had solid showings in every tournament, and there are just a couple things to fine-tune. Every day is an opportunity to become a better player, to understand our limitations better. If we can all make minor improvements, we’ll be very deadly in league play.”