But for the No. 21 Harvard men’s tennis team, it certainly does. After all, that’s where the Crimson will compete in its first Sweet 16 since 1998—an honor earned by a tight 4-2 victory over No. 19 Tulane yesterday in the regional championships of the NCAA tournament.
When the match was clinched, the Harvard players poured onto the courts to celebrate, screaming and jumping in front of the massive crowds that flooded the Murr Center.
“This is our biggest crowd of the year and biggest crowd we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said sophomore Brandon Chiu.
The fans were not disappointed—from the beginning, the match was more than dramatic.
The Green Wave (19-5, 6-0 Conference USA) had won 10 matches in a row, knocking off Notre Dame on Saturday by a 4-0 margin, and the Crimson (19-6, 7-0 Ivy) knew it would have its collective hands full.
Though the senior doubles team of Mark Riddell and co-captain David Lingman rolled to an 8-1 victory, the other two matches remained knotted.
The scores inched along almost in unison: 5-4, 5-5, 6-5, 6-6, 7-6, 7-7. And then, at the last moment, Chiu and his partner, junior Jonathan Chu, fell 9-7 to No. 12 Michael Kogan and David Goulet. It was the pair’s first loss of the season.
The doubles competition rested on the shoulders of senior Chris Chiou and junior Martin Wetzel. Under pressure, the latter produced shot after spectacular shot, jumping and screaming on the court to the delight of the fans.
Then, at 8-7, after missing a handful match points, Chiou pulled a return down the line which his Green Wave opponent couldn’t quite angle over the net.
And so Harvard clinched the doubles point, the momentum and the attention of every fan in the stadium.
“I guess we’ll see how important it will be,” Chiou said right after the win, “but hopefully, it proves to be very important. It was tense. I’ve had trouble with tight situations before...but it was fun to get through one.”
The singles competition was similarly close in the beginning. Freshman Jack Li finished quickly, suffering a 6-1, 6-4 defeat which knotted the dual match score at 1-1.
Of the remaining five matches, the Crimson secured four first sets, one in a tiebreak and two by a 6-3 margin.
The tide turned with Wetzel’s match in the fifth slot, as the German scored a 6-3, 7-6 (4) win which revved up the crowds and put Harvard up for good.
No. 36 Lingman, who was playing against Tulane’s No. 11 Michael Kogan, was next to finish, winning a 6-2, 6-4 thriller.