Sunday, April 08, 2007

Another step taken by Men's Tennis, defeating Columbia 5-2...League overview...

The outcome of Saturday's match against Columbia would decide whether we could still decide our own fate in the Ivies, or wait on the play of others.  A win would put us 2-0 in a tight race, with Penn leading the way as the favorite.  Columbia made the finals of the ECACs last October.  Bid Goswami's team certainly looked to be one of the favorites to capture the spring title.

We were fortunate to have a great crowd from the beginning.  The boys were never at a loss for support.  Thanks to everyone for sharing your afternoon with us!

While our doubles stacked up well against the Lions on paper, the singles line-up was a different story.  At the top of line-up, Columbia players had a little history with their Harvard opponents.  Clayton had lost to his counterpart Mark Clemente twice already, as had Kumar to Jared Drucker, on Drucker's way to the finals of the Northeast Regional Championships last November.  In the second half of the line-up, Columbia's depth great.   It did not look like there would be any easy "outs" there either.

At #2, Valkin and Denenberg led the way, jumping quickly on Columbia's # 2 team from the start.  They broke right away and never looked back, despite wily defense by Columbia.  8-4 Harvard.

Kumar and Ermakov fell down a break early, but held on to break back soon thereafter. Ermakov was not getting a high enough first serve percentage, which gave Columbia too many looks at second serves, but he and Ashwin still hung tough through some nail-biting games.  Once they saved Ermakov's second service game, they seemed to relax a bit.  They got their break and took the match 8-5. 
A precious doubles point to Harvard 1-0.

Nguyen and Hayes at #3 had one of their few less-than-sharp days.  They were tenacious and came back to hold in several service games, but got down a break early.  They had trouble getting much going on the return side, which is usually their strength.  Despite their rough start, they still managed to send the match to a tiebreak at 7-7, but this one did not go their way. 

On to the singles.

After the rough start against Cornell the day before, the lads were a little ready to get their teeth into their matches from the get-go.  Things went our way quickly.  Clayton jumped to an early break, as did Kumar.  Both seemed intent on their purpose.  Denenberg at #4 jumped out to a 5-2 lead, and Nguyen to a break lead.  Only Valkin fell behind early to the inspired two-fisted play of Paul Ratchford, 5-2. 

Kumar's first set was as close to perfect as one can come 6-1.  Now the battle would begin.  Drucker was Columbia's left handed Clayton, fast, with great endurance, and tough to overcome.

Valkin, despite falling behind early, was the first to win.  He played great to put the Crimson up. 
2-0 Harvard.

Ermakov got his first set, too, as did Nguyen at #3, who was playing relentlessly in his long baseline rallies, and attacking when he had a chance.  Dan Nguyen was the third point, as he captured his second set 6-3.  3-0 Harvard. 

Denenberg lost his early break and advantage to an extremely talented freshman, Jonathan Wong, and lost the tiebreak.  Clayton won his first set, but fell behind a early break.  Kumar lost his second set to Drucker with a contentious ending.  As Kumar fought to regain his poise before starting the third, on court #4, Denenberg had somehow managed to break back at match game on Wong's serve.  Scott won the tiebreak to force a third. 

The match was soon to be clinched by Kumar, who settled down to break Drucker in the opening game, and served it out game by game for a satisfying 6-3 final set. 
4-0 Harvard.  Hurdle #2 jumped!

Meanwhile, Ermakov, with all the commotion at the clinching of the match by his doubles partner and close friend, had trouble keeping his eyes and thoughts on his match at #6.  He served for the match, but was broken, and quickly lost a tiebreak to force a match tiebreak in place of the third.  He recovered his focus a bit in the second tiebreak, but his opponent, fighting to salvage a match for Columbia, captured the tiebreak 10-8.

In the last match, Columbia's Wong came back from down a break in the third set against Denenberg to bring the final match score to 5-2.

Now the real challenge begins.  Our next hurdle: Penn on Friday and Princeton on Saturday, both away.  We've played well at home with great support from our fans.  Now we have to take the show on the road, and face the twin dangers of Scylla and Charybdis.

League Overview:
This was a fine weekend for us, but was only the opening salvo in the Ivy hunt.  Penn is now 3-0, having already defeated last year's NCAA representative Brown 5-2, Princeton 5-2, and Yale 4-3.  Princeton has put everyone on notice by taking out Brown 5-2 and Yale 4-3, both on the road.  Their only loss is to the league leader Penn in their opener.  Columbia, with only one loss, and Yale and Brown, will still have plenty to say before the end of the season.  Cornell and Dartmouth will be waiting to spoil anyone's day.  

David Fish
Head Coach of Men's Tennis
Harvard University Dept. of Athletics
Murr Center
65 N. Harvard St.
Boston, MA 02163-1012
Phone: 617.495.2695/Fax: 617.495.2700
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