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Michigan is cold. In November, it’s even colder.
But men’s tennis co-captain Cliff Nguyen is willing to brave the elements, after earning a berth in the ITA National Indoor Singles and Doubles Championships, to be held at the University of Michigan on Nov. 6-9.
Nguyen heated up at just the right time, making it all the way to the finals in the 96-person main draw at the ITA Northeast Regional Championships hosted by Cornell. Both singles finalists and the winning doubles team earn berths in ITAs.
In the finals, Nguyen, the No. 4 seed, lost a close match to the No. 2 seed, Jamie Cerretani of Brown, 7-5, 6-2. Nguyen came out with plenty of energy, capturing the first three games and eventually holding a 5-3 lead. But he soon began to fade as Cerretani improved his consistency, and the result was a stunning comeback in the first set, followed by a solid victory in the second set.
“I played with a lot of intensity in the first set, but slowly the momentum started to turn as he gained more confidence in his shots,” Nguyen said.
To clinch his berth, Nguyen had to defeat Virginia Tech’s Angel Diankov in the semifinals. Nguyen started out smoking, claiming the first set 6-0 and jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the second set before giving up a service break. He regained his composure, breaking Diankov’s serve to get back the lead at 3-2, and then served the match out for a 6-0, 6-4 win.
Nguyen also entered the doubles bracket with junior Martin Wetzel, but Cerretani ended his run there as well, pairing with Adil Shamasdin to defeat the Harvard duo 8-4.
The top-seeded pair of Cerretani and Shamasdin was not done causing trouble for the Crimson, defeating the unseeded team of junior Jason Beren and senior George Turner, 8-2. Cerretani also prevailed 6-3, 7-6 (6) over Wetzel in the third round of singles, completing the trifecta by knocking out Nguyen and Wetzel each individually and in doubles.
“[Cerretani and Shamasdin] came out explosive, and unfortunately we weren’t able to come back from the early deficit, but we continued to go after our shots, which made the match more interesting” Beren said.
Nevertheless, Beren and Turner had an incredible run, knocking off four straight seeded teams including the third-seeded Cornell duo of Joshua Raff and Nic Brunner.
Their performance was especially satisfying since both lost tight matches in the singles draw. Turner bowed out in the third round, as he held match points against No. 13 Reed Hagmann of Colgate but ultimately fell 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7). Beren had lost to No. 15 Akshay Rao of Columbia 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 in the second round.
Freshman sensation Jack Li continued a string of solid performances by reaching the third round, where he was upended by No. 10 Josef Novotny of the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, in a close battle, 6-4, 7-5. Senior Chris Chiou dropped a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 decision to John Houghton of Army in the second round. Li and Chiou reached the second round of doubles play, but lost their next match to Hans Plukash and Darius Craton from Princeton, 8-4.
“For Jason and George to mesh so well together is a demonstration of our team depth at doubles,” said assistant coach Peter Mandeau, “and we will further improve our depth as we are taking some of the less-experienced guys to play at Dartmouth.”
Harvard will be in action this weekend at the Dartmouth Invitational, which runs from Saturday to Monday.
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