COLLEGE PARK, Md.--Playing in conditions satisfactory only to a masochistic kite flier, the Harvard tennis team battled a feisty University of Maryland team and crosswinds gusting to more than 40 miles per hour here yesterday and emerged with a hard-fought, 5-4 victory.
Sophomore Don Pompan, whose hard, driving ground strokes seemed unaffected by the gale force, and senior Andy Chaikovsky, who mastered the wind with an assortment of junk shots that would make Luis Tiant proud, carried the day for the Crimson by winning their singles decisively and combining for a straight-set win at first doubles.
The match came down to the wire, though, and the number two doubles team of captain Kevin Shaw and sophomore Jim Curley had to gut out a 5-4 tiebreaker win in the second set to put Harvard over the top.
Under normal conditions, the contest should have been, well, no contest for the Crimson. Two of Maryland's top players from last season graduated, and the third dropped out, leaving the usually-powerful Terrapin team a little ragged at the edges. But the bone-chilling, swirling gusts eliminated any advantage the visitors may have had.
"This wind's the greatest equalizer there is," Chaikovsky said afterward. "We could have beaten Princeton on a day like this."
Chaikovsky spotted the Crimson to a quick one-zip lead by destroying Australian freshman Scott Rowlands at number two singles, 6-4, 6-2, with "a lot of low, chiselly slices and some good backhand passing shots."
Coach Dave Fish had pulled a surprise move by plugging Chaikovsky in as high as number two, since a serious shoulder injury and a subsequent cortisone shot had prevented him from playing any challenge matches. Fish's strategy, obviously, paid off.
Sixth singles player Greg Kirsch, also a surprise insertion in the line-up, lapsed briefly in the second set before going on to tool freshman Craig Hardenbergh, 6-0, 5-7, 6-0.
Shaw (at four) and Bob Horne (at three) had a hard time getting into their matches, though, as they dropped a three-setter and a tight two-setter, respectively. And when Curley lost his number five singles match, 6-4 in the third set, the Crimson racquetmen were sitting on the wrong end of a 3-2 score.
All eyes turned at that point to the number one singles match, where Pompan prevailed in a two-and-a-half hour slugfest with the Terrapins' top man. Bob Weise.
After dropping the first set in a tiebreaker, the sophomore had to serve his way out of a jam at 5-all, 5-40 in the second. The Californian put away two volleys and went on to win that game, then broke Weise's serve in a marathon game to take the set. After that, Pompan rolled, tying the team match at three apiece.
Pompan and Chaikovsky put the Crimson up 4-3, with an easy straight-set victory at first doubles, placing the burden of proof on Shaw and Curley at two, and Horne and Kirsch at three. Shaw and Curley did it.
After stealing a service break to take the first set from Weise and Wade Batterton, the Crimson tandem broke Weise's serve at 6-5 to send the second set to a breaker. With Batterton serving at four-all. Shaw returned two backhands from the ad-court, then hit a high forehand volley that Weise leaped for but netted. Point, game, set, match, and team match.
As for the wind and cold, the Crimson agreed almost to a man that they had never played in worse conditions. Bob Horne, though, recalled one day almost as bad.
"I can remember playing on one worse day, when I was 12 at camp." Horne said. "I smoked some kid named Ned Patts from Baltimore."