Athlete of the Week: Lingman Comes Up Aces

As New England temperatures continued to drop last week, men’s tennis co-captain David Lingman flew South—to the Champions Club of Chattanooga, Tenn.—looking for victory in the ITA All-American Championship.

He got just what he wanted.

Upsetting four higher-ranked opponents, two in the singles field and two in doubles, Lingman earned the distinction of Athlete of the Week.

Ranked 88th, Lingman began the tournament Wednesday by defeating No. 82 James Pade of Stanford in the first qualifying round, 6-2, 6-3.  On Thursday, his victory against LSU’s Bryan Fisher, 6-3, 6-1, earned him a spot in the tournament’s field of 64—and a date with first-round opponent No. 14 Robert Searle of Rice on Friday.

The task seemed lofty, but Lingman rose to the occasion, defeating the Englishman in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, to advance to the round of 32.

“I wasn’t making very many mistakes,” Lingman said Monday. “I was pretty solid.”

Lingman’s good fortune against top-ranked opponents did not continue in the next round, however. Lingman dropped a heartbreak to Ohio State’s No. 20 Jeremy Wurtzman, 6-7, 7-6, 3-6.  

After trading tie-breakers, Lingman came up short in the third, “disappointed” about his final set but content with his play, overall, for the tournament.

Lingman said his play has improved this year—a scary thought, since he was the 2002-03 Ivy League Co-Player of the Year—because of intense training over the summer.  He worked out extensively with weights and also improved his footspeed and agility by jumping rope and doing plyometrics drills.

Peter Mandeau, Harvard’s associate coach of men’s tennis, raved yesterday about the visible improvements to Lingman’s game.

“I think he’s competing at a much higher level this year,” he said. “He’s tougher on getting balls that should be out of play.”

And that, Madeau said, is key to competing at a “national level.”

“On the national level,” Mandeau said, “most of the college players are strong, offensively. One of the consistent separators is their ability to come up with a good defense when they’re up against the ropes. That’s something David’s improved on.”

Lingman continued his strong play into the doubles competition. Teaming with senior Mark Riddell, and ranked No. 34 nationally, the Harvard duo knocked off the No. 16 and No. 28 teams in the nation before falling in the semifinals of the backdraw.

When asked if he prefered victory in singles or doubles, Lingman could not make up his mind.

“They were both good,” Lingman said.

So is winning Athlete of the Week.