Monday, February 26, 2007

Harvard Men gain confidence in strong showing against top 20 Michigan Wolverines…

Harvard Men gain confidence in strong showing against top 20 Michigan Wolverines…

Michigan jumped on top early with some of the strongest doubles play we’ll see this season. Michigan’s top-10 team at #1 jumped on Kumar and Hayes early and never let up. Clayton and Nguyen at #3 played two hard-serving freshman Goliaths, and couldn’t get their slingshots loaded in time. Down 4-0 early, they matched Michigan’s team 4-4 in the remaining games to lose 8-4. Despite the loss, they are making progress. At #2 Old Faithful Denenberg and Valkin showed signs of their customary fight, breaking early to go up 2-0, but Michigan broke back quickly to halt the early momentum. After that, the Michigan players fired off too many unreturnable serves for us to get a break we could hang onto, and their returns kept us under pressure with every serving game. Overall, we’re pretty good…they are very good. They will compete with any team in the country in doubles. 1-0 Michigan.

After the singles, however, top twenty Michigan found out quickly that it still had its hands full yesterday with a pesky Harvard squad. The layout of the courts was identical with Michigan State. On one side, #1, #3, and #5 (Clayton, Valkin, and Nguyen respectively) and on the other side, #2, #4, and #6 (Kumar, Denenberg, and Kalfayan, respectively. The “odd” side yielded only one first set for Harvard, as Clayton hung tough again against his top 50 opponent, Brian Hung of Hong Kong. Valkin was a little overwhelmed the huge serve and forehand combinations of Mazlin and dropped his first set. Nguyen led with an break once or twice in the first set, but momentarily doubted, which allowed Aarts to hang tough enough to take the first set in a tiebreak.

On the other side, Kalfayan couldn’t get adjusted to the speed of another big server (must be the Midwestern food!) and dropped his first set, but seemed more comfortable in the second. Kumar and Denenberg captured very tough first sets in tiebreakers, Kumar going against #40 Maravic and Denenberg against George Navas from Florida.

Back on the odd side, Valkin made a strategic adjustment, and found his opponent’s Achilles’ heel often enough to keep the second set in doubt. Meanwhile, Nguyen provided much of the drama of the evening, as he lost his serve twice in the second set and faced Aarts serving for the match at 5-3. He saved three matches points to send the set into a tiebreak. He won it 7-4.

Back on the even side, Kalfayan went toe-to-toe with Bruckmann and stretched it to a second-set tiebreak before falling. He needed one more gear to break the big serving Wolverine, and couldn’t quite find it. Kumar dropped the second set, but stayed even until three-all in the third. He challenged Maravic hard and often, holding more than a few break points, but Maravic proved too steely to give up the break. Maravic took the match 6-3, to give Michigan its fourth point. Navas, too, got the early break against Denenberg in the third, and never looked back. 5-0 Michigan.

Back on the odd side, however, Valkin went down. But Clayton had a chance to serve for the match in the second set, while Nguyen played a 10-point Match tiebreak, which he won 10-4, to give Harvard its first point. Clayton was broken back, but after a long battle, he broke once against to serve for the match a second time. Despite facing two breaks points at 15-40, a second chance was all he needed. He erased the break points quickly with two powerful serves, and took his second match and win over a top 50 opponent.

Overall, the Crimson’s efforts was a large step forward. The guys showed a resilience that was encouraging.

Next Friday night, join us as the Northwestern Wildcats come to Boston at 6pm at the Murr Center.

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