Harvard Men's Tennis caps off its opening weekend with a 6-1 win over Purdue!
After our emotional 4-3 win over William & Mary last night, the team showed up today tired, but ready for action. Our conditioning both on the court and in the weight room really paid off, as we earned a convincing 6-1 victory at home over Purdue.
In the team room prior to the match, our coaches fired us up with a sword-fighting scene from the movie First Knight. The two key themes that we took onto the court with us were that we have to anticipate our opponent's every move and that we have to be completely fearless. In other words, as Coach Rueb has said countless times this season, we have to be ready to do battle. Nevertheless, in the doubles matches, we went down an early break at the #2 and #3 positions. The duo of freshman Alexei "Lexor" Chijoff-Evans and Colonel Clayton dropped their match to a big-serving Purdue team, making the other two pro-sets must-win matches in order to clinch the doubles point. At #2 doubles, Aba Omodele-Lucien and co-captain Dan Nguyen battled back, earning consecutive breaks with clutch play and great shot-making to take their pro-set 8-6. Ashwin "Magic Man" Kumar and Sasha Ermakov, the ITA Summer National Champions, eventually earned a break to clinch the doubles point for us.
In sharp contrast to yesterday's match, in which we dropped four opening sets, we won five out of six first sets today. With only three singles wins needed to clinch the victory, we were in prime position to put Purdue away. Ashwin was the first off the court with a 6-4, 6-2 victory to put Harvard up 2-0. On court #4, however, Dan, our hero of the fall season with his performance at the ITA Regionals, couldn't find his range against a tough Purdue opponent. When analyzing the match later in the team room, Dan commented: "All of my shots were flying long. I guess I'm just too strong …"
I played well today, earning a 6-4, 6-1 victory to put our team up 3-1. With three matches to go and only one more needed, I came off the court thinking that we were only a couple of shots away from the match. Moreover, Sasha and Chris were both serving up a set and 4-3 in the second set. But if there's one thing I learned from this weekend, it's that there are always surprises in college tennis. Both of them got broken after long games, giving our fans in the stands a minor scare. But Sasha played a flawless game to break back and then held to clinch the match.
With the match already decided, both Aba and Chris played match tiebreakers in lieu of third sets. Aba, down a mini-break throughout much of the tiebreaker, came up with several spectacular returns and big serves on crucial points. He eventually took the tiebreaker and the match to earn his second win of the day. Chris, once again the last one on the court, took the opportunity to work on his net play during the tiebreaker and still won by a score of 12-10.
Coach Fish was barely able to see Harvard clinch the match before leaving for New York for a banquet at the Harvard Club of New York honoring former Harvard squash coaches (he was also the Harvard men's squash coach from 1976-1989). Coach Rueb, class of '95 and - like Coach Fish - a team captain, led the post-match recap of a very successful weekend. We were all smiles in the team room, but you can be assured that our faces will turn serious again once next weekend rolls around.
It's not every day that you get to play the top team in the nation. Next Saturday, we take on #47 Kentucky in Charlottesville, followed by #1 Virginia on Sunday. The schedule on-line hasn't been updated yet. Stay tuned for more blogging to come!