The Harvard men’s tennis team split its weekend matches on its West Coast swing, winning one of two against highly ranked squads as part of ITA Kick-Off Weekend.
The 30th-ranked Crimson (4-1) fell to No. 15 UC Berkeley on Friday, 4-2, before taking down No. 27 NC State, 4-3, at the Golden Bears’ Hellman Tennis Center in Berkeley, Calif.
The ITA Kick-Off Weekend, which features 60 of the nation’s strongest teams competing at various schools across the country, serves as an important barometer at the start of the spring season, and determines berths in the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in February.
Harvard faced a tough test on Friday in UC Berkeley, which reached the sweet 16 of last season’s NCAA Championships, and the job became more difficult when the Crimson lost the doubles point.
The Golden Bears’ Filip Bergevi and Mads Engsted knocked off co-captain Alex Steinroeder and freshman Grant Solomon in third doubles, 6-4. Then, co-captain Denis Nguyen and sophomore Brian Yeung, already the seventh-ranked doubles tandem in the nation in their first season together, fell short against No. 42 Gregory Bayane and Chase Melton, 6-3.
Harvard quickly regained the lost point, as No. 86 sophomore Sebastian Beltrame won 6-3, 7-6(4). But junior Nicky Hu fell against No. 93 Bergevi in a tough 7-6(5), 7-5 match, and a three-set loss for Yeung meant the Crimson was in a hole, 3-1.
Steinroeder pushed back with a comeback victory, 5-7, 7-5, 6-3, but Nguyen’s three-set loss, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5, clinched the match for Cal.
Because of the loss, Harvard next faced the Wolfpack, which fell to Mississippi State, in the consolation match. But the competition remained fierce, especially since NC State featured strong players across singles and doubles.
Steinroeder and Solomon picked up a 6-4 win, and while Nguyen and Yeung dropped their second contest of the weekend, Beltrame and Hu were able to clinch the doubles point by sneaking by, 7-6(6).
In singles, Beltrame picked up his second win of the weekend, 6-4, 6-3, but the Wolfpack closed the gap by defeating Yeung. Freshman Kenny Tao stepped up with a 7-6(5), 6-4 victory, but Harvard dropped matches on both the first and second courts, and suddenly the match was deadlocked, 3-3.
It all came down to the fourth court, but Steinroeder completed his comeback over NC State’s Beck Bond to win, 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-5, to hand Harvard the overall victory.
While Harvard’s third-place finish for the weekend was not ideal in terms of qualifying for the National Team Indoor Championships, it still served as a strong showing for a team looking to reclaim the Ivy League title this spring.
The Crimson will next play in two weekends, when it will travel to Northwestern.
—Check TheCrimson.com for updates.
—Staff writer Justin C. Wong can be reached at email@example.com.
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