Men's Tennis Splits Cornell and Columbia Contests

This weekend served up a rollercoaster of emotions for the Harvard men’s tennis team. On Saturday, the team—undefeated in the Ivy conference at that point and riding a six-game win-streak—faced off against a similarly undefeated No.20 Columbia squad at home. After clinching the win 4-2 and moving to first place in the Ivy League, the Crimson took on No. 25 Cornell on Sunday, ultimately falling 4-2.

"Overall it was an amazing weekend for us," co-Captain Jean Thiruoin said. "On paper it looked like we didn’t even belong on the court with both teams but we proved that wrong by taking out Columbia and being on the verge of taking out Cornell."

With its 1-1 split this weekend, the team moves to 4-1 in the conference, tied with the Big Red for first in the league. Depending on its performance against Princeton and Penn next weekend, this could be the first time Harvard has a chance at the Ivy title since 2013.

CORNELL 4, HARVARD 2

Harvard took the doubles point early on with two decisive victories. The co-captain duo of Thirouin and Sebastian Beltrame defeated their opponents 6-2, while sophomore Chris Morrow and rookie Logan Weber clinched a 6-4 win at third doubles.

On the singles side, Thirouin earned Harvard a point at third singles with a straight-set defeat of No.116 Cornell freshman Lev Kazakov, who he had faced earlier in his doubles match.

With the Crimson at a 2-0 advantage, the Big Red turned the tables and came back across the ladder, winning two three-set matchups. Beltrame fell 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 at first singles, while Morrow fell 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 at third singles.

"Coming from the high of yesterday, it was hard to find the adjustment between thinking too much about the win and thinking about Ivy League title," Tao said. "We have approached the Ivy season as upstarts, and to finally not be in the underdogs was a unique situation that we should have handled better."

Senior Brian Yeung went on to fall in two tie-breaker sets at fourth singles, and Zhou suffered a 7-5, 6-4 defeat at fifth singles to give Cornell the 4-2 victory.

"The Cornell loss was especially tough because we were leading the whole match having taken the doubles point and 4 first sets in singles, but they showed why they’re such a great team by turning the match around at the very last moment," Thiruoin said.

HARVARD 4, COLUMBIA 2

The stakes were high in the matchup between Harvard and Columbia, with both teams undefeated in the league.

"The Columbia win was an unbelievable feeling for the whole team because we’ve been putting in the work all season and it paid off at the best time," Thiruoin said.

The Crimson earned the doubles point on Saturday as well. Morrow and Weber came back from behind at third doubles to clinch the match 7-5. At first doubles, the No. 74 doubles duo of Yeung and junior Kenny Tao edged out their Columbia opponents with a tiebreaker victory, 7-6 (7-4), to give Harvard the 1-0 advantage.

"As a team we’ve hit our stride in doubles, winning the majority of doubles points," Tao said. "Also, we’ve been much better at performing consistently, especially outdoors and this showed in our outdoors match with Columbia. Everyone played very mentally tough, and we were more solid than they were in tough conditions."

While Beltrame and Morrow fell in straight sets at first and fifth singles, respectively, Harvard went on to sweep at second, third, and fourth singles. Tao took a decisive 6-1, 6-4 victory at second singles while Zhou kept his opponent at bay with a 6-2, 7-5 win at fifth singles.

Thirouin came back from dropping the first set to take the deciding win at third singles with a score of 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.

"We always have very scrappy matches with Columbia, and to be able to take down a team that we have a such a deep rivalry with is no small feat," Tao said.

—Staff writer Jamie Chen can be reached at Jamie.chen@thecrimson.com

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