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Brown Transfer Leads Crimson Squad

Former Brown standout Jonathan Pearlman has found success since joining the Crimson, playing at the team’s No. 1 singles position.
Former Brown standout Jonathan Pearlman has found success since joining the Crimson, playing at the team’s No. 1 singles position.
By Steven T.A. Roach, Crimson Staff Writer

The change from brown to crimson might be an insignificant one on the color spectrum, but the transition from the Brown tennis team to the Harvard tennis team was anything but easy for junior Jonathan Pearlman.

Tennis was not always Pearlman’s passion. Growing up, Pearlman was involved in many different sports, but did not focus specifically on tennis until the age of 12. After deciding to concentrate most of his athletic energy, the New York native began to play in USTA tournaments around the country and achieved a career-high ranking of No. 51 in the junior national rankings.

At the age of 17, Pearlman moved to Spain for a year to train with a club in Barcelona featuring many high-level European players under an experienced coach. During this time, he traveled around Europe playing in International Tennis Federation tournaments.

Pearlman notes key differences between the coaching style in Europe and in the United States.

“There’s a high priority on education in the US,” Pearlman says. “Not that there isn’t in Europe, but athletes are encouraged to really focus on their sport [as a potential career]. … It fosters a very competitive and serious environment where players are able to progress because of the high level of competition.”

With this training under his belt, Pearlman set his sights on playing tennis in college. Although he had many options, Brown seemed to be the perfect choice for Pearlman because the Bears had won two consecutive Ivy League titles and, according to Pearlman, were the strongest Ivy League program at the time.

During his two-year career at Brown, Pearlman dominated on the courts. As a freshman, he led the Bears in winning percentage and, as a sophomore, reached the quarterfinals of the ITA Regional Championships. From the outside looking in, it seemed to be a perfect fit.

Yet the experience was not quite what Pearlman had envisioned. According to Pearlman, the level of the program declined significantly during his time in Providence. In the spring of 2009, Pearlman decided that he was not satisfied with the tennis program at Brown and left.

“It turned out to be a very negative experience athletically,” Pearlman says. “I needed to be in a stronger program with a more experienced coach, like Coach [Dave] Fish, and Harvard was the place for me to come.”

By the time he decided to leave Brown, Pearlman had already missed the deadline to transfer to other colleges. Instead of wasting the year, he used the extra time to improve his game. Pearlman started playing in higher level tournaments, learning to become more aggressive and to develop new strokes.

When it came time to reapply to colleges, Pearlman knew where he wanted to apply. He sent in applications to Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Virginia, as well as other schools. Even though Pearlman had previously been accepted to Brown, his chances at these schools still remained a mystery.

“It’s very competitive [as a transfer student], and it was very unclear if I was going to be accepted [at Harvard],” Pearlman said.

In late May, Pearlman learned he was one of only thirteen transfer students accepted to Harvard. For Pearlman, Harvard was the perfect combination of high-level athletics and high-level academics. It took some time to adjust, but soon, Pearlman was feeling like a member of the team.

“Coach Fish and the team were really instrumental in making me feel comfortable, and they really provided a good environment for me,” Pearlman said. “I really like the guys, and I’m very happy that I decided to transfer.”

He’s a consummate worker,” said Harvard assistant coach Andrew Rueb. “As a coach, it’s a pleasure to have someone who can’t work hard enough.”

It seems that with this help, Pearlman has been able to play some of his best tennis. He amassed an 11-4 record this fall and consistently leads the team in the duals season at the No.1 position.

“I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, so I have a lot of confidence going into matches … in my ability to outlast opponents.

Even though he has dedicated the better half of his life to the sport, tennis is not the only passion Pearlman has. The economics concentrator also enjoys filmmaking and acting and is completing a secondary in dramatic arts.

“With the tennis schedule, obviously, there’s not enough time to do performances and audition for that, but I hope to be able to pursue that in the future at some point,” Pearlman said. “I’m going to be playing tennis after school, but if things don’t work out, I’m going to be moving directly to Hollywood.”                                                                                          —Staff writer Steven T. A. Roach can be reached at

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Men's Tennis