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No. 16 M. Tennis Breaks Pepperdine Jinx

Most Harvard students left campus last weekend for points south and west for Spring Break in an attempt to escape the nasty New England weather. HARVARD  4 PEPPERDINE  3 HARVARD  4 NEW MEXICO STATE  3 HARVARD  3 BOISE STATE  4

The Harvard men's tennis team was no exception. The No. 16-ranked Crimson traveled to California for the Gaucho Classic and a battle with No. 17 Pepperdine. However, the weather on the left coast proved to be more of a hindrance than a help, and the Crimson's performance suffered early in the trip. The journey closed on a positive note when the Crimson beat Pepperdine on the Waves' home court for the first time in 10 tries.

After a week of practice in California, the Crimson (13-4) started Saturday's match with Pepperdine on the right foot, taking the doubles point that had plagued them all week in quick and dominating fashion. In the No. 2 doubles slot, the new team of junior Joe Green and sophomore Scott Clark got up an early break and held on to beat Sebastian Graff and Anthony Ross 8-6.

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Co-captain Kunj Majmudar and sophomore James Blake, fully recovered from a back injury sustained earlier in the trip, secured the doubles point with an 8-6 defeat of No. 11 Jon Hui and Kelly Gullet.

"James and I played a lot better, like we were at the beginning of the year," Majmudar said. "Winning the doubles point gave us added confidence heading into the singles."

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By this point, the temperature had dropped to an unseasonable 40 degrees and the winds were howling. However, the Crimson had been there, done that earlier in the week and used that experience to crest the Waves.

The bottom of Harvard's lineup struggled as Pepperdine took the fourth-, fifth-and sixth-place matches. However, the top of the order picked up the slack. At No. 1, Blake shook off any of the cobwebs that had formed during a week of limited practice and pasted No. 37 Gullet, 6-4, 6-3.

Majmudar, who had returned to Cambridge after the Gaucho Classic to work on his thesis instead of practicing with the team, rejoined the team in California and earned a 6-4, 7-6 (5) victory at No. 3 singles.

"I had a couple of match points at 5-4 in the second but played stupid points," Majmudar said. "Yesterday was another tough day, but the match with Boise helped us deal with the conditions. We handled it well this time."

Majmudar's win put the Crimson ahead 3-2 in the team match, and the deciding match came at No. 2. Junior John Doran had moved up to the second slot for the Crimson on the trip West and proved more than ready for the challenge. After dropping the first set, 7-5, to Graff, Doran came back in the second, forcing a tiebreaker, which he won 7-5. Doran kept getting stronger as the match wore on and steamrolled his opponent 6-1 in the third set to win the match for Harvard, 4-3.

In an ironic twist, the biggest disappointment of the trip, the 4-3 loss to Boise State in the quarterfinals of the Gaucho Classic, may have made the road defeat of Pepperdine possible. The Crimson had handled Boise State easily the week before, but the weather proved to be a significant equalizer. The skies were blue, but the wind was screaming, and the Crimson was not prepared.

Rain the previous day had created a backlog in the draw, so matches were halted as soon as one team reached the deciding fourth point.

The match opened with singles in an effort to reach that magic number as quickly as possible (three doubles matches result in only one point), and the Crimson started slow.

Clark dropped the No. 6 match in straight sets to put the Broncos up, but-Doran showed that he was prepared to perform in the second singles position by evening things with a 6-2, 6-2 win. At No. 4, co-captain Mike Passarella lost in straight sets, 7-5. 6-2.

At third singles, Majmudar displayed the learning curve that the Crimson would need to find success in the weather. The senior dropped the first set in unimpressive fashion, 6-1.

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