Two days after opening the spring season with a pair of wins over William & Mary and Marist, the Harvard men’s tennis team returned to action by dispatching Dartmouth (2-0) in an exhibition match at the Murr Center. Five of six singles players earned victories as the Crimson (2-0) rolled to a 5-2 win despite dropping the doubles points.
“It’s always nice to come up with a win against another Ivy team,” co-captain Denis Nguyen said. “All of us took it pretty seriously. With that in mind, there was no weight to the match, but it was nice to come away with the win.”
Co-captain Alex Steinroeder and freshman Kenny Tao ruled the day as the pair picked up a doubles win together in addition to individual singles wins.
“Today was a good chance for us to practice some last things before the real season gets underway,” Steinroeder said. “Dartmouth is always a great team, so it was fun to get a chance to scrimmage them.”
The gutsiest match of the day belonged to sophomore Brian Yeung, who came from behind to win in the fifth position. After losing the first set 4-6, Yeung battled back to force a 10-point tiebreaker, which he took, 10-8.
The back-and-forth drama of Yeung’s match was more the aberration than the norm for Harvard. Aside from Yeung and junior Nicky Hu, who fell in a tiebreaker, all singles matches counting towards the final score went to the Crimson in straight sets.
Nguyen led the bunch with a dominant 6-2, 6-1 performance against the top player for the Big Green. Three games into the season, Harvard’s co-captain boasts a No. 57 national ranking.
“The strength of my game, I would say, is footwork,” Nguyen said. “Being a smaller guy, I need to be faster than the opposition, which is generally a little bit taller and a little bit stronger than me.... [Training over break gave] me a lot of confidence going back into the matches.”
Improved conditioning or not, Nguyen met more trouble when he and Yeung faced off against Dartmouth’s first doubles. The Crimson duo, which entered the season as the seventh-best pairing in the nation, suffered a 6-4 defeat.
Competing in the second doubles position, sophomore Sebastian Beltrame and Hu also lost, 6-4, to give the doubles points to the Big Green.
“[We] still need to figure out a couple things in doubles,” Steinroeder said. “Overall we were very happy with how everyone competed.”
Despite defeats at first and second doubles, Steinroeder and freshman Tao provided a bright lining by fighting for a 6-3 win.
Steinroeder and Tao also contributed singles points to the overall effort, winning 6-1, 6-3 and 6-4, 6-4, respectively.
The early success of the pair suggests that Harvard might have found something that it lacked last year: a consistent tandem at No. 3 doubles. However, Nguyen admitted that the doubles lineup was far from set.
“We’re still looking for our third doubles team,” Nguyen said. “That’s still a work in progress, as it was last year. It’s a little bit early in the season to tell who’s playing better…so it’s still a little bit of an experimentation process.”
In the singles lineup, senior Shaun Chaudhuri rounded out the squad with a 7-6, 6-2 triumph.
As an exhibition, the match against Dartmouth did not count towards either team’s final record. However, the Big Green and the Crimson will meet again at the tail end of Ancient Eight play.
Harvard entered the day with a No. 28 national ranking while Dartmouth came in at No. 47. The two teams are presently the highest-ranking members of the Ivy League.
“It was a very impressive showing on our team, and I was pretty happy with the performance,” Nguyen said. “[We need] perhaps a little bit more energy amongst team members, but we’ll probably ramp it up for our first real match.”
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