Sunday, April 15, 2007

Razor's Edge: one third-set tiebreak the narrow margin… 4-3 Princeton…

A lone third-set tiebreak separates two fine teams… 4-3 Princeton…

Down 3-1 with three matches left in the third close to a great comeback on the road… While it didn't end the way we hoped, the match featured all the drama and class that one could hope for in an Ivy match. A good Princeton crowd was hungry and passionate for a win, but respectful of the great tennis on both sides. Princeton, after a easy 7-0 tune-up on Friday, came out sharp. We came out a little flat.

At #3, Hayes and Nguyen went up an early break, but were broken back twice to give Princeton the lead. The #2 match went Princeton's way. Senior co-captain Scott Denenberg was ailing and by match's end, it was clear that he couldn't play in singles.

Despite Denenberg's lack of sharpness, he and Gideon still gave Princeton everything they could handle. At one moment, all three Crimson teams rallied, which threw the doubles point into question. But with a home crowd cheering them on, Princeton took heart, just as we had done against Columbia a week ago, and secured the doubles point.
1-0 Princeton.

The #1 match is always entertaining, and produces some spectacular points. Ted Mabrey, a Boston native and Princeton senior, never having tasted victory over a Harvard team in dual matches, came up big in front of his parents, teaming with freshman George Carpeni to salvage a tiebreak win over Kumar and Ermakov. Ted has marvelous hands, and teaming with Carpeni's power, they presented Kumar and Emakov with a challenge. K&E staged a comeback to even the match, but with the point already won by Princeton, they played a tiebreak at 7-7. Two match points for Harvard prolonged the suspense, but two untimely double faults kept Princeton's hopes alive, and gave them another chance, of which they took advantage.

In singles, Valkin had already moved to #4, while Ermakov moved up to #5 in place of Denenberg. As Kumar goes, often so goes the Crimson. Kumar's service woes continued. He suffered his second defeat in two days, this time to an on-fire senior Sratha Saengsuwarn, who scarcely missed a shot in the first set. Kumar mounted a better attack in the second set by getting to net more quickly, which troubled Saengsuwarn, but with a break already in hand and momentum on his side, he served it out.
Princeton 2-0. Valkin brought us within one with a 6-1, 7-6 masterpiece against Alex Krueger-Wyman, a sometimes erratic but ever-improving and dangerous serve and volleyer. 2-1 Princeton. Shantanu Dhaka, playing his first match after a prolonged rehab, was game but not up to the task of upending Princeton freshman Charlie Brosen, who plays a largely errorless backcourt game. He fell in straight sets to give Princeton the penultimate point. 3-1 Princeton.

Now the drama started. Princeton fans were on the edge of their seats. We needed all of the last three matches, Princeton just one. Nguyen, Ermakov and Clayton were deep in their third sets. Ermakov finished first with a win, his second three-set win in two days.
3-2 Princeton.

There was no rest for the weary, however. Clayton had taken the first set against veteran sophomore Peter Kapkovic, a mature former touring player who had reached about 500 in the world, who sat out last year due to entering college after his 20th birthday. Peter, from Bratislava, Slovakia, adds a high level of experience and sportsmanship to the top of the Princeton line-up. Nguyen at #3 was matched against Carpeni, a US citizen now hailing from England.

Neither side blinked until the tiebreaks. Clayton and Nguyen both nudged ahead through their third sets as the lead off servers, but each time, Princeton evened the score to send both matches into simultaneous lingering-death tiebreaks. It doesn't get much more dramatic than this…but in the end, the drama was short-lived. Carpeni found his range sooner than Nguyen, and captured the final point for Princeton. A minute later, Clayton completed his upset of Kapkovic.

A great victory for Princeton and well-deserved. Congratulations to coach Glenn Michibata for a job well done.

Ivy Summary:

The Ivies have never before boasted the depth they do now. It was only two weeks ago that we registered a win over Stanford. Every team in the Ivies is good now. Penn now leads the league with a 5-0 record.

Next weekend, we will take on a tough Yale squad in New Haven. Yale also lost to Penn and Princeton 4-3, so, with home court advantage for the Bulldogs, we have our work cut out for us. We will return to the Murr Center on Sunday for a match with Brown, and finish with Dartmouth on Tuesday.

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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