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It was a good time for firsts this weekend during the Harvard men's tennis Fall Invitational.
Sophomore Oli Choo won his first collegiate singles title Sunday, defeating Nebraska opponent Adnan Hadzialic, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4, in a match that was played in two different locations due to three rain delays.
Choo's freshman teammate, George Turner, shined in his first appearance for the Crimson, easily dispatching Cornhusker Fungai Tongoona, 6-1, 6-3, in the "B" flight singles.
Harvard almost swept the entire invitational, but the doubles team of senior Andrew Styperek and junior William Lee narrowly lost in the finals to Rutgers' Akshay Jagdale and Greg Schweitzer, 9-8.
Early on, it looked like Choo would wrap up the title easily. He took the first set, 6-1, and it looked like nothing could slow him down.
Hadzialic responded, however, jumping on Choo's second serve in an attempt to neutralize the serve-and-volley that had hurt him in the first set. He broke Choo early in the set to go up 3-1, and the two played pretty much even the rest of the way. At 5-6, though, Choo double-faulted twice and ended up dropping the set.
After the changeover, Choo came out fired up. He broke Hadzialic in four straight points and both players found renewed energy in their groundstrokes.
At 5-3 in the third, the rain came down for the third time during the match. This time, it was strong enough to force a long delay, and the remainder of the match was played at the indoor courts in the Murr Center.
The rest gave both players a chance to warm up again, and it showed. Indoors, the pace of the points almost doubled. Hadzialic held to make it 5-4, but Choo rolled off four straight points on his own serve to clinch the title.
In the "B" flight singles, Crimson newcomer Turner proved that his impressive run so far was no fluke. After having defeated the Nos. 1 and 3 seeds, he faced fifth-seeded Fungai Tongoona in the final.
Like Choo, Turner came out of the gate firing away, easily taking the first set, 6-1. Tongoona, though a quick runner with some good groundstrokes, was overmatched the entire way. Turner simply outhit him, often running around the backhand and hitting a deep inside-out forehand.
Tongoona did regain some composure in the second set and the two stayed even early in the set. Turner tensed up slightly, perhaps due to nerves, and his shots didn't seem to be as hard or as deep as in the first set.
At 4-3, Turner saw his opening and broke Tongoona's serve. It was simply a matter of holding his own, then, which he did to walk away with the victory and title.
Perhaps the most exciting match of the day came at the doubles finals. One of the Crimson's only intact doubles teams from last year, Styperek and Lee, faced off against the Rutgers duo of Jagdale and Schweitzer. The match was fairly normal early on, with both sides trading service games and playing out long rallies.
At 5-6 in the eight-game pro set, Lee came up big. Three times, Jagdale was serving for the game on Lee's side. Three times, Lee's huge returns set up easy points for the Crimson. Eventually, the Harvard pair was able to break back and tie the match at 6-6.
The points seemed to only get better and better. Both sides fought for every ball, often with someone ending up on the ground after diving for a shot. Styperek and Lee had a match point at 7-6, but Rutgers' serve held and tied the set at 7-7. A few minutes later, the teams started a championship-deciding tiebreaker.
Things started poorly for the Crimson. Lee lost both his service points and Harvard went down 3-0. The team closed to within 4-3, but that was it. Schweitzer closed it out and the Rutgers pair won 9-8 (7-5).
Despite the doubles loss, it was a fairly successful way for the young team to start out its season. All six freshmen got a taste of collegiate action, playing against adequate competition like Nebraska, Rutgers, Alabama and St. John's.
Co-captain Anthony Barker, who had fallen 6-0, 6-0 to Hadzialic in the first round, came away with the "A" singles consolation trophy. His opponent, Harvard freshman Ryan Browne, who lost in the second round, was ill on Sunday and thus unable to play.
Others fared well, too. Freshman Cliff Nguyen won his first- and second-round matches in straight sets before falling to Choo. In the "B" flight, junior Dalibor Snyder advanced to the semis before losing a close one to Turner, 6-2, 2-6, 6-4. Co-captain Mike Rich also made it to the semis before Tongoona beat him in a third-set tiebreaker.
The Crimson's next action is in Lexington, Ky., where it plays individual singles and doubles tournaments at the University of Kentucky Fluitt Invitational, Sept. 29-Oct. 1.
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