At the beginning of the season, some poor pessimists looked at the Crimson tennis team and predicted the netmen would have a rough year. Those pessimists--prophets of doom--pointed to the other fine teams in the league, to Harvard's tough opening schedule, and finally to the loss of the number one player, Harris Masterson.
Those pessimists were wrong.
The racquetmen showed tremendous depth and ability while under pressure en route to a 6-3 victory over Penn and a 5-4 cliff-hanger over Navy this weekend.
At Annapolis, the victory was decided by the second doubles team of Ken Linder and Gardy Rowbotham after the other eight matches had split evenly.
Playing against the duo of Hoekstra and Kasper, two Midshipmen who did not compete in the singles, Lindner and Rowbotham dropped the first set, 6-4, and gained a split with a 6-2 victory in the second.
In the third set, the deciding one for second doubles and for the team as a whole, Harvard went up, 4-0 forty-love behind Rowbotham's spinning serves and Lindner's poaching net play. But with a vocal crowd behind them, the Navy team ran off five straight games for a 5-4 lead, causing not a few faint hearts among the Harvard team.
Then, knotted at six games apiece, the match went down to a tense nine-point tiebreaker which Harvard won five points to two.
"We're definitely psyched after this weekend," number three singles player John Ingard said yesterday. "That was an excellent start, the new players showed they can come through in the clutch."
He was referring not just to Rowbotham, but also to Gary Reiner and Chip Baird. Reiner won both matches on the away swing, culminating with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Navy's number two man, Kevin Miller.
Baird, the only other Harvard singles player to win both contests this weekend, put aside Mark Smith, 6-4, 7-6, at the number six position. Tom Loring completed the winning side of the singles competition with a 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 turnaround victory over Bob Phillips.
All the Harvard singles losses came on three-setters. Lindner lost to ground-stroke expert Craig Dawson, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6; Ingard dropped one to Ted Turnblazer, 2-6, 6-1, 6-1; and Randy Barnett lost to Desi Dundricks, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.
Loring and Barnett have had a little trouble getting on the track at number one doubles. They lost at Penn and then again on the soft clay of Navy, 6-4, 6-3, to Dawson and Turnblazer.
They played together at number two doubles last year and the year before, and their quick net play should salvage some wins in the next few matches.
Reiner and Ingard, playing third doubles, picked up their second victory in as many days with an easy 6-3, 6-4 victory over the Middies.
The Crimson meets Brown tomorrow afternoon at Soldiers Field.
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