Monday, February 26, 2007

Opening Weekend of Spring Campaign-Columbia and Harvard Invitational

What a weekend of tennis to start the season with!

It’s late, and I’m getting tired…but I wasn’t tired of some of the great tennis the team played over the weekend. Here’s the recap:

Saturday in New York at the Columbia Invitational Tournament:
Some great competition in New York produced several agonizingly close matches. It scraped the “exam” rust off Scott Denenberg and Chris Clayton very quickly.

To start the day, Denenberg and Clayton lost in the quarters to Manhattan’s top doubles team. After an early break in our favor, we returned the favor. Everyone held serve to push it to a tiebreak, which Manhattan won.

Later, in the first singles of the day, Clayton, in his own words, played in “clumps.” Facing a tough opponent who had ambushed Columbia’s Marty Moore in the first round, Clayton made quick work of his first set 6-0. He made equally quick work in losing the next four games before turning on the afterburners on the Batmobile to take the last six games of the match!

Scott Denenberg, playing in the backdraw of the A flight, jumped to a one set lead over Yale’s talented 6’5” sophomore Michael Caldwell. Caldwell will probably play #3 on a strong Yale squad that will be much improved from last year. Caldwell quickly evened the score by taking the second set, and served for the match at 5-4. Scott broke back and held serve to go up 6-5. He held two match points on Caldwell’s serve at 15-40, but Caldwell hung tough to tie it at 6-6. Scott got down early in the tiebreak but evened it at 4-4. Caldwell served big to win 7-4.

In the singles semifinals, Clayton played Mark Clemente, Columbia’s #1. Three hours later, Clayton came out on the short end, losing 7-5 in the third. It was a battle between two very talented and lightning fast baseliners, with occasional forays into the net on Clemente’s side of the net that proved to make the difference. It was difficult loss, as Chris had served for the match at 5-4 in the third. A painful but great lesson so early in the season. Clemente went on to win the finals on Sunday in straight sets.

Sunday in Cambridge:
Meanwhile, back at the Harvard Invitational, three Harvard players made the quarterfinals: Ashwin Kumar, Dan Nguyen, and Gideon Valkin. The pattern of excruciatingly close losses continued. Ashwin went out to BC’s #2 Jason Secrest 7-6,-7-6, while Dan lost to BC’s #1 Soma Kesthely deep in the third.

But we could see a flicker of light somewhere deep in the tunnel. Senior Co-Captain Gideon Valkin, facing extinction at the hands of Princeton’s big serving sophomore Alex Krueger-Wyman (down with K-W serving at 6-5 in the third – ugh!), broke back to force a tiebreak. You can guess this ending. Gideon took the tiebreak.

There was still plenty of doubles left, which produced some great tennis by the Crimson. Valkin and Kalfayan defeated Princeton’s Vuckovic and Kapkovic. Burke and Nguyen defeated BC’s #1 team and then Princeton’s top team, Sengsuwarn and Krueger-Wyman to reach the finals, where they would meet Harvard’s Kumar and Hayes, who had marched easily through the other half of the draw. Both teams decided to play the finals last night so they could rest their tired bodies today. Kumar and Hayes took the title with some great teamwork.

In the semis this morning, Gideon the Giant Killer took out BC’s Secrest in three sets to give the Crimson more good news.

In the finals, he squared off against Princeton’s highly touted Peter Kapkovic, a sophomore from Eastern Europe who had made it to about 400 in the world prior to college. This fellow can play…definitely not your average sophomore!

Gideon grabbed the first set by a tiebreak 8-6, but fell behind quickly in the second set. The realists in the crowd knew that Cinderella’s stagecoach eventually turned back into a pumpkin… Kapkovic seemed poised to roll the third set… but wait…

Gideon, playing fearlessly, broke early in the third. Despite constant pressure, he held on with great poise and excellent shot-selection to take the title! Well done, Gideon!

Next action: Friday vs. Michigan State in Michigan, Saturday v. Michigan in Ann Arbor.

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