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Few have doubted that the Class of '92 was one of the most exciting things to happen to the Harvard men's tennis program since the introduction of indoor courts. But never would anyone guess how quickly the sophomore quintet of Michael Zimmerman, Derek Brown, Albert Chang, John Tolmie and Shyjan would help the program become one of the nation's best.
Shyjan did not have an extremely successful year--he was hurt in early March and missed a couple of weeks at the end of the regular season with a nagging back injury. But the Crimson's rise to national prominence started in February at the national indoor championships in Louisville, Kent., where the unranked Crimson upset three of its four opponents to forge its way into the top 10. And it was Shyjan, the Harvard Crimson sophomore of the year, who started the momentum by winning the two biggest single matches of the Crimson's season in February.
A serve-and-volley specialist, Shyjan upset the defending national champion, LSU's Donni Leaycraft, 3-6, 7-6 (7-1), 7-5, in Harvard's 5-3 loss to the fourth-ranked Tigers in the second round of the tournament.
The next day, against fifth-ranked South Carolina and with the Crimson losing, 4-0, he sparked what those on the scene described as one of the greatest tennis matches they had ever witnessed. Harvard's first-singles player staved off two match points in the third set against the Gamecocks' 10th-ranked Stefane Simian, eventually capturing the match, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), to keep the Crimson alive.
Chang's three-set victory in singles and a pair of doubles wins pulled Harvard even, 4-4, and Shyjan teamed up with Zimmerman to ice the victory with another three-set win over Simian and David Hopper at first doubles.
The Crimson was subsequently ranked seventh in the nation in the first spring season poll, its highest ranking in 29 years. Harvard captured the EITA schedule without a flaw and became the first Eastern team to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
While the 13th-ranked Crimson's season ended abruptly last Friday, upset by San Diego, 5-3, in the opening round of the tournament, Harvard has no plans for leaving the top 20, at least while Shyjan and Co. are around. Despite his injuries, Shyjan has remained as one of the top 16 singles players in the nation throughout the season, and he will be competing today in the NCAA individual tournament.
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