Nguyen’s opponent was Pepperdine senior Alex Sarkissian, ranked 28th in the country. Nguyen started off strong as usual, with a 6-4 win in the first set, but dropped the second set, 7-5—his first lost set of the entire tournament. Sarkissian prevailed, 6-2, in the third to end Nguyen’s run.
Nguyen’s advancing to the national semifinals stands as the longest run for a Harvard player since James Blake reached the championship match in 1999.
Fish views Nguyen’s strong play on a national stage as an indicator of the strength of the Crimson program.
“We take it as an endorsement of what all the kids in the program have done,” Fish said. “By having a strong commitment to doing the hard work, Denis was able to put himself in a position to do something with his preparation. But if you don’t have good teammates, you can’t get that good yourself.”
Thanks to that preparation, it is all coming together for Nguyen—now an All-American, and a recently elected team co-captain and team Most Valuable Player.
“Throughout my Harvard career, I think I’ve improved each year, and in different parts of the game,” Nguyen said. “Balancing athletics with academics has enhanced my mental capacity to do well. Mentally, I was strong enough to go through the tournament, and this week has been a culmination of my work.”
—Staff writer Justin C. Wong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @justincwong94.