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Harvard Hosts Top Players in the Northeast for ITA Super Regionals

Then-sophomore David Arkow serves while playing in last year's Halloween Invitational hosted by the Crimson.
Then-sophomore David Arkow serves while playing in last year's Halloween Invitational hosted by the Crimson. By Owen A. Berger

Harvard competed with the best tennis players in the Northeast last weekend at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Super Regionals, hosted at the Beren Tennis Center. The Crimson represented 11 of the 32 players who qualified for the last stop on the road to the ITA Fall Nationals.

“To have 11 of the top 32 [players] wearing crimson was quite an honor,” said head coach Andrew Rueb ‘95.

Senior captain Harris Walker, No. 39, was the No. 3 seed in the tournament and advanced to the final without dropping a single set. Even when rain interrupted play and forced the final match indoors, Walker maintained the momentum and defeated Columbia’s Alex Kotzen, the top seed in the tournament, 6-2, 7-5. In the final match, Columbia first-year Michael Zheng took the championship after a tough three-set battle, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4. Walker finished as the tournament’s runner-up and will compete in the ITA Fall Nationals in November.

Harvard saw early upsets in the Round of 32. Despite a comeback in the second set, sophomore Daniel Milavsky, No. 7 seed in the tournament, was ousted by Yale’s Michael Sun 6-2, 7-6 (8-6). Sophomore Elisha Thornton also fell after a second-set tiebreaker to Aditya Gupta of the University of Pennsylvania, 6-2, 7-6 (7-3). In the first round of doubles, similarly close competition made for exciting matches. Just a few key points kept the duo of Milavsky and junior Ronan Jachuk from victory; eventual champions JJ Bianchi and Max Motlagh of Boston College won the match 8-4.

In the Round of 16, the Crimson competed in multiple three-set matches. Junior Captain Henry von der Schulenburg, No. 18, was defeated by tournament finalist Westfal in a close battle, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4. Jachuk and freshman Melchoir Delloye also lost in three-set matches that day.

“I mean this is why you play,” said Rueb of the tight competition at the tournament. “The pressure is a privilege, and you get the honor of playing close matches against good competition; that’s sort of what you earn.”

In the quarterfinals, the excitement continued, with just two Harvard players remaining in the draw. First-year Marc Ktiri faced off against Columbia’s Michael Zheng, No. 3, and ultimately lost 6-2, 7-5. Meanwhile, Walker handily defeated Dartmouth’s Hikaru Takeda, 6-4, 6-1.

Coach Rueb emphasized these close competitions, and the fall season in general, as key opportunities for growth. Team competition starts in January, making the fall a time for individual players to hone their skills.

“It is a developmental time,” Rueb emphasized. “This is the time to make adjustments, make changes in your game. You have to have that developmental mindset now especially.”

The Crimson closed out the Spring 2022 season at No. 14 after winning the Ivy League Championships and suffering defeat to Stanford in the second round of the NCAA tournament. With new players added to the roster, the fall poses an opportunity to find new strengths.

“The teams that use the fall wisely are really progressing and getting ready for that all-important season that starts in January. It’s a building block, the fall,” Rueb explained. “Obviously it’s a great honor for [Walker to advance to Fall Nationals], but the big goal here is to keep improving, and stacking some great practices on top of each other so that you’re making those improvements.”

Harvard will host men’s and women’s teams for the annual Crimson Halloween Invite this weekend, Oct. 28-Oct. 30.

— Staff writer Caroline Gage can be reached at caroline.gage@thecrimson.com.

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Men's Tennis