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No. 12 W. Tennis Routs No. 30 Alabama

A lingering exam-period swell didn’t prevent the No. 12 Harvard women’s tennis team from facing down the challenges of a rising Tide, as the Crimson comfortably upended No. 30 Alabama 6-1 in its first matchup of the spring season.

Glaringly absent from both singles and doubles play against the Crimson Tide was junior co-captain Courtney Bergman, who remains sidelined by a debilitating knee injury that has kept her out of competition since late October. Bergman—who is ranked No. 25 on the collegiate singles circuit and teams with classmate and co-captain Susanna Lingman for the No. 49 doubles team in Division I-A—regularly draws the toughest opponent while playing in the No. 1 position and provided a bright spot for a squad that struggled to recapture last spring’s success.

Lingman, who battled a battery of injuries entering the autumn campaign, acceded to the top spot in singles while adopting freshman Preethi Mukundan as her doubles partner in the No. 3 position, performing admirably in both new roles.

Facing Alabama’s Natalie McElveen and Mari Muller, Lingman and Mukundan looked anything but unfamiliar with one another, easily coming out on top, 8-3.

Singles play did not go as smoothly for either, however, as each was forced to three sets, with only Lingman emerging victorious.

Facing Crimson Tide No. 1 Robin Stephenson, Lingman fell prey to a break of serve in the first set from which she could never recover, stumbling into a 6-4 result and one-set hole. But the seasoned veteran proved unfazed by the early deficit and roared back to capture the final sets 6-4 and 6-3 for the victory.

Mukundan similarly found herself down and out against Muller after being closed out of an evenly matched first set 7-6. Overcoming the tendency towards a letdown after such a difficult loss, Mukundan snatched the momentum right back with a solid 6-4 second-set victory. But the advantage would not last. Muller reclaimed her advantage and ousted Mukundan with a 6-2 third set win, earning Alabama its only point of the day.

With the uncertainty of its newly-assembled doubles team resolved, the Crimson had little difficulty capturing the doubles point. Sophomore Melissa Anderson and junior Ashley Hyotte coasted in the No. 2 match against Nathalie Koppelle and Melissa Minor en route to an 8-3 victory to secure the point for Harvard.

In the No. 1 match, sophomore Eva Wang and junior Alexis Martire encountered stiff resistance against Stephenson and Ashley Bentley, and were forced into an extended set before closing the Tide tandem down, 9-7.

Neither suffered such hardship in singles play, as both Martire at No. 2 and Wang at No. 3 earned straight set victories. Martire proved indomitable early, flawlessly blasting Kopelle to sweep the first set, 6-0.

The second set was more of a challenge, as the two jostled back and forth to gain the upperhand. But Martire was not to be outdone and closing the match 7-5.

Both Wang and Anderson cruised to 6-2, 6-2 victories, but the easiest match of the day fell to freshman Cindy Chu, who won by default to establish the final margin of victory.

Harvard returns to the courts tomorrow, taking on No. 2 Georgia in the first round of the 2004 USTA/ITA National Women’s Team Indoor Championships, hosted by the University of Wisconsin.

—Staff writer Timothy J. McGinn can be reached at mcginn@fas.harvard.edu.

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