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Men’s Tennis Posts Impressive Results During California Road Trip

The Harvard men's tennis team posted mixed results on the road last week, winning three of its matches before falling to No. 29 UCLA
The Harvard men's tennis team posted mixed results on the road last week, winning three of its matches before falling to No. 29 UCLA By Sarah G. Erickson
By Lauren K. Choy, Katharine Forst, and Daniel Hochberg, Crimson Staff Writers

The No. 10 Harvard men’s tennis team (13-5) entered spring break with fresh legs, traveling across the country to California to take on the No. 47 University of California Santa Barbara, California Lutheran University, No. 40 Pepperdine University, and No. 29 University of California Los Angeles. It emerged with a 3-1 record on the trip, making the cross-country trip worthwhile.

“It was great to be able to compete in California again. It was our first match outdoors which is great preparation for the rest of the season,” senior Alan Yim said. “We were dealing with a few injuries which gave a lot of other players the opportunity to step up and gain invaluable experience.”

The Crimson leveraged this experience as it battled through two matches on Tuesday, taking on both UC Santa Barbara and California Lutheran.

Harvard 4, UC Santa Barbara 3

Tensions were high during the first matchup against the Gauchos. The squad went into its singles matches with a disadvantage, having given up the doubles point after losses at the No. 2 and No. 3 positions. Despite this minor setback, however, the Crimson went into the singles matches with nothing but confidence and determination.

During singles, at the one and four spots respectively, senior Danny Milavsky and sophomore Valdemar Pape put up strong efforts against UC Santa Barbara but lost their matches in straight sets.

However, victories for the Crimson soon followed on courts two, three, and six. On court two, senior Ronan Jachuck was the first to finish, defeating the Gauchos’ Gianluca Brunkow with back-to-back 6-2 sets. Sophomores Masato Perera and Melchior Delloye soon followed, adding to Harvard’s string of victories.

Perera put up a strong performance against UC Santa Barbara’s Conrad Brown at the No. 6 position. Perera’s teammate, Delloye, followed him with another victory, winning in three sets. Having lost his first set 4-6 to the Gauchos’ Lucca Liu, Delloye came back from behind, taking the next two sets and ending with a well-deserved 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory.

This meant that all eyes were on first-year Rohan Murali at the No. 5 position, with the game tied 3-3. With high stakes and the fate of his team on his shoulders, Murali rose to handle the pressure.

He started out slowly, losing the first set 4-6 to UC Santa Barbara's Kai Brady. Nevertheless, Murali appeared to thrive under pressure, and as the match wore on, he stepped up and dominated on the court.

He came back with a strong second set, winning 6-1. Murali emerged victorious, winning his match and securing the Crimson victory with the tie-breaking point. As a first-year, this was a defining and outstanding match for Murali, who showed what he brings, and will continue to bring, to the team.

“Everyone competed really well over spring break and we were willing to make adjustments as the week went on. It was great to see Rohan Murali, a freshman, get his first clinch and in dramatic fashion as well,” Jachuck said. “Experiences like that will only make the team stronger as we head into Ivy League play. Transitioning to outdoor tennis from indoors can be tricky, but we did a very good job of building up our fitness and conditioning in the weeks leading up to it so when we got outside we could focus on fine tuning our games.”

The squad posted strong results, but will look to improve at its doubles performance before it heads into league play.
The squad posted strong results, but will look to improve at its doubles performance before it heads into league play. By Sarah G. Erickson

Harvard 7, California Lutheran 0

Just a few hours later, the Crimson took on California Lutheran University. Despite the quick turnaround, the Harvard squad took what it learned in its first match and leveraged it into a decisive 7-0 sweep.

Unlike in its first match where the team needed to dig itself out of a deficit after dropping the doubles point, the squad redeemed itself as the doubles pairs of Pape and Yimk and senior David Arkow and sophomore Marc Ktiri comfortably won the doubles point with 6-0 and 6-2 wins, respectively.

The Crimson quickly capitalized on its momentum, winning in straight sets at each of its singles positions. Yim finished first, easily defeating Raphael Simon 6-0, 6-1. Courts four and five finished shortly after Yim with similar results. Ktiri continued his success from doubles, winning his match 6-0, 6-1, and junior David Lins bageled his opponent with a 6-0, 6-0 defeat. Lin’s victory gave Harvard its fourth point and secured the victory.

The standout performances trickled down on other courts as well, but a particularly exciting outcome came from Perera, who played at the No. 1 position for the first time in his career. Despite it being his first time at the No. 1 spot, Perera did not disappoint. He defeated Ethan Sherwood handily, 6-2, 6-1.

The perfect sweep by the Crimson against California Lutheran was a gratifying way for Harvard to finish a well-earned pair of victories.

The Crimson had three days to regroup and prepare before it took on No. 40 Pepperdine University on Friday. The Crimson continued its momentum with another clean, quick win.

Harvard 4, Pepperdine 1

The Crimson struggled once again at the doubles spot, with Harvard’s No. 1 duo of freshman Cooper Williams and Jachuck falling to the Waves 6-3. However, the No. 2 Crimson duo of Milavsky and Lins quickly tied it up, and the squad was able to secure the point with a clutch tiebreaker win by Yim and Perera to ensure the lead for Harvard.

"I think we generally did everything pretty well as the quality of play was pretty high all around. I think somewhere we could have been better is the dubs point," Williams said. "We lost two out of three (excluding cal Lutheran). Obviously it’s tough to quickly adjust from playing fast indoor doubles to slower outdoor doubles, however there were definitely areas we could have improved in relation to the dubs point. Being less hesitant at net and sticking to our aggressive game-plan could help us in future dubs points."

Milavsky continued dominating in the singles round, defeating Pepperdine’s Linus Halldin 6-4, 6-2 on the second court. Harvard’s Murali kept his momentum rolling from Tuesday, and found another big win, 6-3, 6-4 over Zach Stephens. These quick wins put the Crimson up 3-0 with four matches left to play. With Harvard leading on three of the four remaining courts, victory was close at hand.

Senior Henry von der Schulenberg was the one to put it out of reach for the Waves, taking down Edward Winter 7-5, 6-2 in his first match on court one. Von der Schulenberg took his time getting adjusted in the first set, before coming out firing in the second to nail home the win.

Before the senior was able to end play in favor of the Crimson, one more match finished, with Jachuck losing to Pietro Fellini 6-2, 6-4. Although it tallied against the Crimson in the final score, victory still fell in favor of Harvard.

Overall, the Crimson came out strong and finished stronger against Pepperdine, continuing its momentum from earlier in the week.

Unfortunately, it couldn’t quite find a perfect record while in California, faltering in its momentum after falling 4-3 to the No. 29 UCLA Bruins on Sunday.

The squad boasted a deep bench during its matches, which it will continue to leverage as it heads into Ivy play.
The squad boasted a deep bench during its matches, which it will continue to leverage as it heads into Ivy play. By Sarah G. Erickson

Harvard 3, UCLA 4

In an area the Crimson will need to focus on as it heads into the remainder of its season, the squad again started off slowly, succumbing to the Bruins initially, who were able to handle the doubles point with ease. The duo of Perera and Lim went down 6-3 in the third spot, and were soon followed by another 6-3 loss for Lins and Milavsky. This put the Crimson in an early hole that it never recovered from, despite some impressive heroics.

Currently ranked at No. 9 in the country by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, Williams returned to singles action after a week off with a dominant win. He took down the Bruins top player, No. 28 Govind Nanda, 6-2, 6-2.

The momentum of the match quickly swung back towards UCLA, however, as Delloye fell to Gianluca Ballotta on court five. Going down 6-1, 7-5, Delloye never gave up the fight, but he couldn’t dig himself out of the deep hole from the first set. On court four, the Bruin’s Alexander Hoogmartens took down Jachuck, 3-2, 6-2, 6-2. Jachuck started off hot, but Hoogmartens was able to fight back and turn the match in his favor. This saw the Bruin’s lead balloon to 3-1.

Murali and Schulenberg kept the Harvard bench alive against the Bruins. Murali continued his strong singles performance with a 6-1, 7-5 win over Jorge Plans Gonzales, earning himself a perfect 3-0 singles record on the week. Then, Schulenberg pulled through with a close three-set victory. With the match knotted at one set apiece, Schulenberg took a massive win in the third, 7-5. This kept the Crimson hopes alive, as all eyes turned to court three.

“We had a small setback against UCLA, dropping a heartbreaker 4-3, but we learned a lot of lessons from that match,” Jachuck said. “On that day, it was just a few points that decided the team result and knowing this we plan to use that experience to help inform how we can handle pressure moments when they certainly come up at the tail end of the season.”

In the close deciding match, Milavsky raced to an early lead over UCLA’s Spencer Johnson, securing the first set 6-4. He wavered in the tight second set, losing momentum after dropping the tiebreak 7-5, and ultimately the set, 7-6 (5). Milavsky was unable to push back during the third, and Johnson secured the Bruin win with a 6-4 final set.

“It came down to a few points here and there,” Yim reiterated. “We are taking some time to reflect on what we could have done better and will use these next few weeks before Ivy season to continue to improve and make the necessary adjustments. I have full confidence that the best is yet to come for our team and am excited to get back out there.”

The team is set to host the Swiss National University team this weekend.
The team is set to host the Swiss National University team this weekend. By Sarah G. Erickson

The squad will look to continue building on its momentum from the first three matches of the week as it heads into Ivy League play following one final non-conference matchup this weekend. The Crimson team has a lot to be proud of, but also has areas to improve as it looks to secure its spot in NCAA postseason play.

“We’re making strides in a lot of areas and I feel like we’re yet to peak as a team, which is exciting because we have the best parts of our season still to come. Making sure that everyone is fit and healthy is a priority, and this will help us to solidify our singles lineup, and our doubles lineup especially,” said Jachuck about key takeaways heading into this weekend’s match. “The key thing for the team now is that we have a lot of matches under our belts and we have a better understanding of what each players’ best tennis looks like and the style they are playing when they are at their best. Committing to those strategies will be extremely important for the team moving forward.”

The Crimson will take what it learned over its grueling set of Spring Break matches as it hosts the Swiss National University team this weekend. The Crimson will welcome the visiting squad to the Beren Tennis Center on Saturday at 1pm.

—Staff writer Lauren Choy can be reached at lauren.choy@thecrimson.com

—Staff writer Katharine Forst can be reached at katharine.forst@thecrimson.com

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