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The Crimson kicked off its fall season this weekend by hosting the Harvard Fall Classic at the newly resurfaced courts of the Beren Tennis Center.
In the individual tournament, Harvard players fared well, with junior co-captain Kristin Norton highlighting the weekend with victories in the most competitive singles and doubles brackets.
Players from a number of East Coast schools participated, including Middlebury, Long Island University, University of Massachusetts, Temple, and Boston University.
The dynamic of the individual fall tournament season is unique from the team competitions of the spring, since fall competition often features teammates against each other in big matches. This weekend’s tournament was no different.
The Crimson women dominated flight A, with all three Harvard players in the draw—juniors Norton, Camille Jania, and co-captain Hideko Tachibana—reaching the semifinals. Jania and Tachibana faced one another in the semis, and Jania ultimately prevailed in a hard-fought three-set match, 7-6(5), 2-6, 10-6, booking her place in the finals with Norton.
But that’s as far as Jania would go. After Norton took the first set in demanding fashion, she was off to the races in the second set, wasting no time in breaking her teammate’s serve twice to take a 3-0 lead. Norton earned a comfortable 6-2, 6-1 win to take the title.
“It was weird [playing Jania], but it was a lot of fun,” Norton said. “I have so much respect for Camille as a competitor, so it was great.”
Unlike many of the other matches of the tournament, the final was very subdued.
There were very few spectators watching Norton’s and Jania’s match, and the normally loud and energetic Norton was hushed.
Jania, who in previous matches was consistent with her groundstrokes, was taking more risks with her shots and was making a much high number of unforced errors in the final match.
In the end, Norton’s well-hit shots proved to be too much for Jania and the rest of her opponents all weekend. But not all of her matches came easily.
In Norton’s first round, she played a tough Boston University opponent, and after being down a set point at 5-6 in the first set, Norton’s opponent committed an unforced error, and the Crimson junior managed to break to even the set at 6-6.
“It was really close … she was a really tricky player,” Norton said. “I was just excited I was able to pull [the match] out.”
In the tiebreak, Norton was down a mini-break at 2-4, but was able to shift the momentum with well-placed shots and smart play to ultimately take the set en route to a straight-set win.
Norton’s path to the finals was considerably eased when she received a walkover in the semifinals after her Boston University opponent was unable to play due to injury.
In the flight B, Hannah Morril and Kelly Whelan both lost in the second round of the tournament.
Harvard’s Samantha Gridley, the top seed of flight C, lost her semifinal match in three sets, 6-2, 6-7(2), 10-6, to Middlebury’s Lok-Sze Leung. And Gridley’s teammate in the same flight, Alex Lehman, also lost a tight three-set match in the semis, falling to University of Massachusetts player, Chanel Glasper, 6-2, 3-6, 10-5.
In the flight A doubles draw, the Crimson headlined again, with the team’s top pair of Norton and Tachibana taking the doubles title in comfortable fashion, winning 8-3 against Yuliana Motyl and Chantal Swiszcz of UMass.
In the Flight B doubles bracket, Harvard teams of Jania and Lehman, as well as Gridley and Li, both lost 8-3 in the semifinal round.
Overall, Crimson coach Traci Green was satisfied with her team’s performance this weekend.
“I saw a lot of poise out there,” Green said. “We have some improvements all around … but over all we had a good showing against some tough opponents … We are ready to move on from here.”
The duo of Tachibana and Norton was invited to compete in an All-American doubles tournament in California in early October, and the two are hoping to take their momentum from this weekend to the West Coast.
“[It was] a good warm-up tournament, so we really wanted to win the whole thing,” Norton said. “We had a couple tough matches, but we were able to pull it out.”
Besides the All-American tournament for Norton and Tachibana during the first week of October, the rest of the team will be in action again on Oct. 8, at the Billie Jean King Invitational in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
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