Ed. Note: Will Guzick (So. Carolina), who just completed his first Varsity match for Harvard with a come-from-behind win, wrote this
!Harvard pulls out a 4-3 win over William & Mary!
Our coaches have been repeating all week that matches will come down to inches. That was certainly true of the 4-3 win we eked out this evening at home against #38 William & Mary.
We started out slowly by dropping all three doubles to our fired-up opponents. After the player intros, the William & Mary team started a chorus of pump-up yells that lasted over a minute. They proceeded to play very aggressive doubles with incredible shot-making, catching our guys unawares with a number of lobs. 1-0 William & Mary.
Our cheering contingent showed up after the doubles pro-sets, once the rain stopped pouring down outside. Despite their support, we dropped four first sets in singles play. Junior Sasha Ermakov ended up losing 6-3, 6-4 against one of his opponents from the doubles match, who was very tough off the ground. 2-0 William & Mary. All-American senior Ashwin Kumar came back from losing the first set 6-1 against a fast, scrappy player to win 6-4 in the third. 2-1 William & Mary. As the match hung in the balance, an eerie silence settled over the courts, something I had rarely experienced in junior tennis. I ended up winning 6-3 in the third set – and I just have to mention running down a service let cord on match point and barely dropping it over the net to take the match. Score tied: 2-2.
From that point on, there was little silence to be found anywhere. Our players ran back and forth among the three remaining matches, cheering on our teammates. Dan came back from a set down to win a convincing second set and quickly go up two breaks in the third. At one moment, we were two points away from victory, as co-captains Dan "Danimal" Nguyen and Chris "the Colonel" Clayton both had match points. Dan converted to put Harvard up 3-2. But on the first court, Clayton's ranked opponent tightened up on a backhand groundstroke that hit the net tape and rolled over. We were literally one inch away from winning the match at that point. But William & Mary's top player broke with a down-the-line backhand winner and then held to even the score at 5-5 in the third. Meanwhile, on court #5, my fellow freshman Aba Omodele-Lucien, a.k.a. "the Juggernaut," stayed mentally tough, psyching himself and the crowd up with a number of amazing crosscourt passing shots. But his lefty opponent played great tennis to come back from a set and a break down to take the second set and eventually the third with a score of 7-5. Score tied once again: 3-3.
Attention then shifted to the deciding match on Court #1, where Chris Clayton routinely held to go up 6-5 in the third. Up 15-0 in the next game, Colonel Clayton's opponent went for a 120-mph-plus second serve that hit the baseline. After that, Chris took the momentum, playing clutch and without fear to win three of the next four points and take the match 7-5 in the third. The team exploded in cheering from the balcony after every point, especially after the match clincher, and I think I might have even caught a glimpse of a relieved look on Coach Fish's face …(Ed. Note: joy and relief...after watching Chris Clayton hold four match points before being broken...)
I got my first introduction to college tennis today, and it certainly was an incredible one! After four-plus hours of tennis, we're all exhausted, but at the same time excited for tomorrow's action and a great season. Check back for more after our 11:30 A.M. match against Purdue. It's at home at the Murr Center, and we would love to have your support if you're in town!