Saturday, October 27, 2007

Nice guys can win, as Nguyens lead the Crimson charge in the ITA Regionals

ITA Regionals Update from Princeton, New Jersey

Nice Guys Can Win (spelled "Nguyen", as in Dan Nguyen)!

Dan Nguyen Reaches ITA Region I Finals in Breakout Performance at Princeton

The ITA Regionals (formerly called the Rolex) is the individual Northeast Region qualifier for the National Indoor Championships, to be held at Ohio State next week. This year Harvard had six singles players and two doubles teams who earned entry into the event. Senior Ashwin Kumar unfortunately had to miss the tournament due to Investment Bank interviews (fyi – he's an econ concentrator looking for work…). The tournament was held at Princeton's Jadwin Gym, four floors underground. One very quickly begins to feel like a mole after long days underground with the hum of the phosphorescent lights still ringing in your ears when you put your head on the pillow at night. It was unseasonably hot and humid the first days of the tourney, which made the underground site even more uncomfortable. After hours of watching matches, coaches talk of having to "surface" - like a submarine crew thirsting for fresh air. For me, the tournament brings back lots of memories like Todd Meringoff's freshman year tournament title or all the subs we consumed at Hoagie Haven or Wawa. Some things never change. The long van rides too are no different than years gone by with seniors sitting in the front seat and everyone fighting for control over the music. Dave still loves his brand of "easy listening" music; while my taste is classic rock has equally gone out of style. One player on the trip asked me who the "Doors" were?! I have enjoyed learning about Kanye West and other more recent rap stars.

This trip has been a marker of how much we have been improving this year. In singles action, freshmen Aba Omodele-Lucien and Will Guzick are still getting their sea legs in college tennis. Aba fell to Rory Green of Yale while Will Guzick lost to Garcia Walter of Niagara in straight sets both in the first round. Yet, both have still put in impressive performances. Aba turned a disappointing first round into a great consolation run (inspired perhaps by Dave's speech about George Turner's consolation title at the Regionals at Virginia Tech some years earlier). He reached the finals of the backdraw but fell to a John McEnroe clone. Will Guzick has been on fire in doubles. He played with Chris Clayton and got into the tournament on the last day as first alternates. They clawed and scraped their way into the quarterfinals!

Big serving Alexei Chijoff-Evans represented the frosh with a great three set win over Alex Svetlakov of St. John and then showed how much he can "ball" by taking Columbia's number one player deep into the third set (after failing to take advantage of a seemingly insurmountable 5-1 lead in the first set). Alexei's game is founded upon relentless forward pressure. It was clear to everyone present that he will be a force to be reckoned with. Sasha Ermakov who has played in the four slot for the Crimson, showed off his chops but fell to Columbia's Clemente, their number two player, in a long three set contest. Sasha is close to finding a new gear if he can find his balance on his groundstrokes and add to his defensive skills.

Our Co-Captains, Dan Nguyen and Chris Clayton, really stepped up in this tournament. Chris won three hard fought matches to reach the quarterfinals, showcasing a newly-found aggressiveness as well as deft touch at the net which gives him an increasingly dangerous all-court game. Chris was still active in the doubles tournament. While fatigue might have played some role, he fell to
Mark Brodie, Dartmouth's top player, lacking his earlier precision. But Brodie in the next round almost took eventual winner James of PSU to three sets in the semis, so he too has emerged as one of the best in the region.

Dan Nguyen proved that nice guys can win after taking out the tournament's number five seed, Mustafa Genscoy of George Washington in the round of sixteen. Dan "Nice Guy" Nguyen (in a nod to Dan Chung '96) played Leningrad tennis. What is Leningrad tennis, you might ask? In the battle of Leningrad, as the Germans were storming across Russia, Stalin ordered officers to stand behind the army line and shoot anyone retreating or moving backwards. Given the ultimatum by coach Rueb, Dan never looked back, attacking off the ground from both wings. Dan went on to defeat a tough Justin Tzou from Dartmouth in the quarters and then pulled off the upset of the tournament by downing Princeton's top player and second seed in the region, Peter Capkovic. This win automatically qualified Dan for the National Indoors to be held in two weeks at OSU! Dan did finally fall to James Michael of Penn State in the final but oh, what a week!

You can see all the weekend results at:

Andrew Rueb
(This report was filed a 100 feet underground)

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