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Men's Tennis Sweeps BU, Michigan State to Advance to Sweet 16

The Harvard men's tennis team improved its home record to 15-0 on the season, and will advance to the Sweet 16 Round of the NCAA Tournament later today.
The Harvard men's tennis team improved its home record to 15-0 on the season, and will advance to the Sweet 16 Round of the NCAA Tournament later today. By Sarah G. Erickson
By Praveen Kumar, Crimson Staff Writer

No. 12 seed Harvard men’s tennis (22-6, 6-1 Ivy) opened up play in the NCAA tournament with two dominant wins on its homecourt, packed with energized fans on chilly afternoons. After beating Boston University’s team, the Crimson wasted no time in punching its ticket to the top-16 the next day against No. 21 Michigan State. The Crimson, advancing to 15-0 on home court, looked poised and collected while dropping no courts throughout the weekend.

Harvard 4, Boston University 0

Harvard opened the NCAA tournament with a familiar crosstown opponent, having beaten the Terriers in a 7-0 victory earlier in the season. Nevertheless, the Crimson immediately put the pedal to the metal and captured the lone doubles point, jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the match. The 19th ranked national duo, junior Danny Milavsky and freshman Cooper Williams, broke serve twice and won their set 6-2. Sophomore Masato Perera and senior Alan Lim followed up moments later with an identical 6-2 scoreline.

As the first portion of the match, doubles has the potential to give either team crucial momentum before the singles matches. Senior Ronan Jachuk explained that “Doubles are very quick, fast, and have lots of energy. The margin of error is very small. There aren’t a ton of things you can control, but to play aggressive and play on our terms. You’re looking to play on one break. You’d rather play on patterns you’ve practiced than on your opponents' terms.”

Moving into the singles portion, Harvard continued to find success on all courts. On Court 2, Milavsky used his powerful forehands to overpower his opponent 6-2, 6-4, notching his second win of the day. Sophomore Masato Perera, whose strategy revolved around putting away volleys at the net, stayed energized throughout his match and won 6-2, 6-4, giving the Crimson an insurmountable 3-0 advantage. With Yim, Williams, and Jachuk all nearing victories, sophomore Melchior Delloye solidified Harvard’s victory with yet another 6-2, 6-4 scoreline, yielding an eruption of cheers and sending Harvard to its third-straight Round of 32 appearance.

The home court advantage means everything to the players. Jachuk praised the fans, noting, “Playing at home has been so fun for us as players. I have friends, family, and I love playing with a crowd. As a fifth-year-senior, I’ve been fortunate to be on storied teams. They help make memories.”

The Harvard squad will hope to push past Kentucky to make it to the Quarterfinals.
The Harvard squad will hope to push past Kentucky to make it to the Quarterfinals. By Sarah G. Erickson

Harvard 4, Michigan State 0

In a much more heated atmosphere, the Crimson proved resilient against the 21st ranked Spartans. Michigan State opened doubles play with a strong 6-4 win over the team of Delloye and Jachuk on Court 2, meaning that Harvard had to win both Courts 1 and 3 to capture the doubles point. Perera and Yim responded to the challenge with an intense 7-6 (4) tiebreaker win on Court 3. With all eyes on their court, Williams and Milavsky won 7-5 to give the Crimson the doubles point and a 1-0 lead entering singles play.

In singles play, Milavsky carried Harvard’s momentum over and quickly won his match in straight sets by a score of 6-4, 6-2, earning his fourth match win of the weekend. Jachuk, who appealed to the crowd with cheers and fist-pumps as a source of energy, followed up minutes later with a decisive 6-3, 6-2 victory of his own on Court 4, putting the Crimson ahead 3-0. After winning the first set and finding himself up 5-3 in the second set, Perera’s opponent broke serve to make the score 5-4. In the following return game, Perera remained poised and moved his opponent from side to side, which gave him three match points. On the third match point, Perera played defensively and capitalized on his opponent’s mistake, clinching another Harvard appearance in the top 16.

With the victory, the Crimson’s 22 wins mark the winningest season for head coach Andrew Rueb ‘95, in addition to clinching it a spot in the top-16 in back-to-back years for the first time since 2004. On the team’s milestone, Jachuk was proud of his team’s hard work. He said, “I think we’re all super excited. It’s been a very long season. We’ve had a lot of milestones, getting to the Sweet 16 for a second straight year means a lot, shows direction, and sets new standards every year. We’re constantly getting on the stage. Hosting and then punching the ticket is another good step in the right direction.”

Harvard will rematch fifth-ranked Kentucky on the road today at 2:00pm, hoping to rebound after falling in a competitive match earlier in the season, 2-5, to the Wildcats. However, the Crimson have continued to improve throughout the year, and hope that the momentum will carry into Lexington. On the rematch, Jachuk pointed out, “Both teams would agree that we’re in very different situations. We’ve played 20 more matches. This is outside, that was indoors. There will be different matches lineup-wise. I think it will be a lot different.”

The Crimson look to advance to the top eight later this afternoon, but first will need to push past Kentucky. The first serves will be hit at 2:00pm in Lexington, and the match will also be streamed live on ESPN+.

—Staff writer Praveen Kumar can be reached at praveen.kumar@thecrimson.com

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