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Finally, there was rest for the weary.
Not that the No. 12 Harvard men’s tennis team is necessarily tired, but with a heartbreaking 4-3 loss in the finals of last weekend’s Blue Gray Invitational, the current pain of midterms and an all-important trip to California looming on the spring break horizon, the Crimson (9-3) is certainly busy.
And so this weekend’s March Men’s Open proved a welcome respite, a time for the less experienced players to gain valuable match time and for the battle-tested to relax.
“Between midterms and the travel we’ve been doing and with us getting ready on spring break,” said volunteer assistant coach Phil Parrish, “we just felt like we didn’t want [the kids in the lineup] to play too much. A lot of them have played a lot.”
“But we threw this tournament in here because we wanted to get the non-travel guys some matches,” Parrish said.
And they did. Harvard had five players entered in the singles draw, and sophomore Brandon Chiu—who mans the Crimson’s second doubles pair with senior Mark Riddell—was the only traveling player among them.
All five advanced to the second round, but freshman Max Tedaldi—whose twin brother, Luke, plays for Brown and also competed in the tournament—fell 3-6, 2-6 in the Round of 16 to Kris Goddard. That round also saw the defeat of sophomore Caleb Gardner to Alberto Brause.
Brause, who enjoyed moderate success in the February Open as well, went on to defeat freshman Scott Denenberg 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-2 in the next round. He ultimately lost to Chiu in the semifinals, though he managed to take the first set.
“It was just a little fatigue from yesterday,” Chiu said of his slow start. “I had a long match [last night].
“I haven’t been used to playing so many matches, especially singles, but I just wanted to fight hard,” he said. “I know that in the future, I’ll be in those positions, and I’ll eventually get into the singles lineup.”
Freshman Shantanu Dhaka also advanced to the penultimate round, and the scene appeared set for a repeat of last month’s Open.
That tournament could have easily been deemed “The Crimson Championships,” as Harvard swept both the doubles and singles competitions.
However, Dhaka fell to Brown’s Goddard, and the Bear went on to meet Chiu in the finals.
During their match, Chiu took an awkward lunge for a ball, but he continued after a very deliberate tying of both shoes. After dropping the first set in a tiebreak, though, the sophomore was forced to retire with a sprained ankle, giving Goddard the championship.
Parrish called the move “precautionary,” adding that with the Crimson’s pivotal trip to California fast approaching, Chiu wanted to be careful.
So this time, the singles title did not go to a Harvard player. The squad had a good chance at the doubles draw, though, as the Crimson had its fair share of names entered.
Gardner and Denenberg joined forces, as did Dhaka and Tedaldi. Most notable, though, was the pairing of junior Jonathan Chu and former Crimson captain William Lee ’02.
Chu normally plays the second singles and first doubles matches, but he chose to join the weekend’s action rather than rest.
“Jonathan loves to play,” Parrish said of Chu, who was the only regular singles player to enter the tournament.
Indeed, Chu and Lee made a run at the title, winning their 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 semifinal on Sunday. However, the duo was forced to withdraw before the finals, as Lee had to return to a prior commitment in New York.
Chu, who had celebrated his 21st birthday the previous night, laughed when explaining the pair’s first set loss in the semifinals.
“I had a late night last night. I turned 21, so we were a little dazed in the beginning. But as the match went on, we managed to come back to this planet,” he said with a grin. “I just wanted to have fun [in the tournament], and we did have fun.”
Not only did team members say the weekend was fun, but they said that it proved useful to the whole team. Some enjoyed well-deserved time off, while others garnered valuable experience.
Senior Chris Chiou, though he did not play because of his impending MCAT examination, was in attendance to root on his younger teammates, a Kaplan prep book resting in his lap all the while.
And Chu approached the weekend in similar fashion, brushing off a question as to why he was not resting for the team’s upcoming spring trip.
“This is the future of our team playing [in] this tournament,” he explained, motioning to a match progressing behind him, “so I’m going to be out here with them in the trenches.”
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