The No. 31 Harvard men’s tennis team began the first day of the four-day USTA/ITA National Indoor Tournament in Chicago with a 4-0 loss to the No. 5 University of Florida—the tournament’s third seed and the same team that ousted the Crimson in the first round of the same tournament a year ago.
The Crimson expects to face similarly high-level competition in each of the next three days.
It is intent on gaining the experience needed for a lengthy NCAA tournament run in May.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for us,” said Crimson coach Dave Fish ’72. “This is the equivalent of the indoor NCAA championship.”
Harvard, seeded fourteenth, put up a valiant effort in all three doubles matches.
Co-captain Jonathan Chu and freshman Ashwin Kumar lost to the Gators’ Hamid Mirzadeh and Greg Ouellette, 3-8, in the first match, while junior Brandon Chiu and senior Jordan Bohnen lost to Jordan Dolberg and Ryan Sherry, 4-8, in the third match.
Florida was thus automatically awarded the doubles point after winning the two matches.
The third was called, even though Crimson co-captain Jason Beren and senior Martin Wetzel were leading.
“They had a little too much strength for us in the doubles,” Fish said. “Kumar and Chu simply lost to better players. It’s easy to lose to many teams [in such a competitive tournament], but the exposure of seeing such high levels of execution is invaluable.”
Despite disappointing results in the doubles matches, the Crimson emerged from the six singles matches in relatively decent shape.
Beren and sophomores Scott Denenberg and Shantanu Dhaka all lost close matches, which in turn gave Florida the three points it needed to wrap up the victory.
But the Crimson was leading the other three matches before play was called. “We were very competitive,” Fish said, “I thought we gave them a very good battle.”
The format of the tournament, which is necessitated by the fact many teams had to play on the limited number of indoor courts, did not allow Harvard the satisfaction of seeing what would have happened in the terminated matches. Nevertheless, the players remained pleased about their performance.
“I think they appreciate how much there is to learn in such an environment,” Fish said.
Chiu echoed his coach’s optimism. “We’re not too far off,” he said. “We’re getting ready for later in the season when it really counts.”
Today, Harvard prepares for the consolation match against the University of Southern California, which lost to No. 6 Mississippi, 4-0.