Women's Tennis Suffers Historic Ivy League Defeat

Harvard loses to Cornell for first time in history, snapping 32-match Ivy winning streak

Meghan T. Purdy

Freshman Lena Litvak (above) and sophomore Beier Ko went undefeated to open the Ivy League season, winning their respective singles matches at the top two positions and winning together at No. 1 doubles.

The Harvard women’s tennis team met with mixed success as it challenged Cornell and Columbia this past weekend. The Crimson had its 32-match Ivy League winning streak snapped with a 5-2 loss to Cornell on Friday—its first defeat to the Big Red in program history—but assuaged this bitter defeat the following day with a taste of victory against the Lions, 6-1, earning its first Ivy League win of the season.

Nationally-ranked Penn and Princeton come to town to face Harvard at the Murr Center this weekend, as the Crimson hopes to begin another long-lasting Ivy winning streak.


Bouncing back from a frustrating defeat the day before, Harvard bested the Lions in a 6-1 win on Saturday. With its first Ivy League victory, the Crimson improved to 3-12 overall and 1-1 in the Ivies on the season.

“We played really well today, and rebounding is the sign of a good team,” coach Gordon Graham said.

Harvard entered the match with intensity, as sophomore Beier Ko and freshman Lena Litvak cruised to an 8-4 victory in No. 1 doubles, clinched by Litvak’s solid backhand on match point. No. 2 doubles pair freshman Elizabeth Brook and senior captain Preethi Mukundan pulled out a hard-fought 8-6 win.

“The match today all came down to our No. 2 doubles team,” Graham said. “They were a point away from going down 7-5. We ended up winning the doubles point, which we didn’t do [on Friday] and that really set the tone of the match.”

The Crimson’s singles dominated as well, controlling the match from wire to wire.

“I really like our energy, especially compared to [Friday],” Mukundan said. “Nobody looked left or right, everyone was focused on their own court.”

Ko and Litvak defeated two of Columbia’s strongest singles players in straight sets, 6-2, 6-1 and 6-2, 6-3, respectively. Playing at No. 4, Brook seized an early 3-2 lead in the first set, but ultimately dropped the set, 6-3. After calling in a trainer to wrap her knee in the middle of the second set, Brook failed down the stretch, again yielding, 6-3.

“Lizzie has arthritis in her ankle and tendonitis in her knee,” Graham said. “Her ankle is wrapped so tightly before matches that it puts extra pressure on the knee because it can’t bend.”

Forgie and Curto remained on the court for two hours, struggling to defeat their Lions counterparts. Forgie fought off several match points and eventually prevailed in the super tiebreak, 12-10, while Curto fought off a triple set point in a 7-5, 6-3 win.

“It was a great day for our five and six players,” Graham said. “They won at Davis and UMass, but this was their first Ivy League win in their first year on the team.”


Shattering its 32-match Ivy League winning streak, the Crimson yielded to Cornell, 5-2, on Friday at the Reis Tennis Center.

“It was painful,” Graham said. “It was a match that we could have won, but we were nervous and tight and we didn’t play as well as we were capable of.”

Overpowering the Big Red in both their singles and doubles matches, Ko and Litvak went undefeated against Cornell, giving the Crimson its only points of the day.

In singles, Ko eked out a 6-7, 4-6, 10-7 win and Litvak triumphed, 6-3, 7-6. Together, they proved unstoppable, taking their doubles match, 8-1.

But the Crimson failed to figure out the Big Red, falling short in both of its other doubles matches and the remaining singles.

“We have to give some credit to our opponents,” said Mukundan, who lost her singles match, 6-1, 6-2. “The girl I played came out really strong and had a game where she hit four aces in a row—and nobody really aces me. Losing the doubles point really set the tone of the match...the doubles point is really essential in the Ivies.”

—Staff writer Courtney D. Skinner can be reached at