Friday, October 24, 2008

Results from ITA Northeast Regional Chps...big weekend for the Crimson netters

HMT (Harvard Men's Tennis) Midterm Exam:

You have one long weekend to complete this exam.
You may use as many blue tennis courts as you need.
This exam is open book and you may ask your coaches for help. Please begin…

The Crimson Netters traveled down I-95 to take their fall mid-term tennis examination this past weekend at Yale's impressive new indoor facility, which boasts 8 state of the art courts and amenities. Regionals (formerly called the Rolex) are the culmination of the fall schedule in which teams send their best players to qualify for National Indoors held at UVA in Charlottesville, VA. Here, players are tested on what they learned over the first few months of the season. The ITA Northeast Region stretches as far north as U. of Vermont in the upper-kingdom down to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD and west as far as Penn State.

How did the boys fare? Did they get passing marks from Prof. Fish who does not subscribe to grade inflation?

It was a great weekend by all standards. Most notably, Chris Clayton won the singles and doubles in one of the most grueling performances since Jon Chu got the semifinals of NCAA Championships in singles and doubles. Chris played eleven matches in four days. He beat three players from Columbia en route to the crown (they have a very strong team this year thanks to two Romanian transfers from Manhattan College and star player from Turkey). In the final twenty-four hours, Chris took a hourly midterm for Science A-35: Natural Disasters, in the evening, then woke up to defeat Columbia's top player Jon Wong in straight sets, hoisted the doubles crown with Alexei-Chijoff Evans over Brown's best team of Noah Gardner (Caleb's brother) and Sam Garland before vanquishing Bogdan Borta (Columbia's number 2 player) in three hours and three sets. Not a bad day's work.

The singles final was the match of the tournament. The lefty Borta from Columbia has an effortless game. He floats around the court using his forehand to jerk his opponent side-to-side by snapping off sharp angles. His speed makes it very difficult to attack his one-handed backhand as he runs around nearly every backhand ball to utilize his stronger wing. Chris kept pounding away with his piercing forehands into Borta's backhand side before he could open up the court to his forehand. Then he would reverse his pattern to open up the court to attack Borta's backhand. Chess at it's finest.

The match was back and forth all the way. Borta started off on fire racing out to a 5-1 lead. Chris waited for his opponent to cool off and stormed back with a new found serve and aggressive play that kept him moving forward throughout the match. Chris somehow broke back twice and took the first set in a tiebreaker. The second set was more of the same - each player tallying winners and making very few mistakes. Borta mounted a late comeback to win the second set, also in a tie-breaker. I would have bet anything that one player would have to retire and throw in the towel from cramps. Even Chris, who has a boundless supply of energy, had twinges in his legs and looked haggard. The third set was grueling. Coach Fish urged Chris to get to the net to finish off points more quickly - "The house is on fire and the only way out is through is through the front door (pointing to the net). Get up there." Captain Clayton responded and forced Borta to pass off his backhand in crucial situations. Both players staggered to the net to embrace after Chris won the third 6-3 in the third! Grade: A

The doubles story was probably more improbable than the singles. We coaches (in our infinite wisdom) had initially looked at Chris Clayton and Alexei Chijoff-Evans as possibly our third doubles team. But at this event, it looked like they had a copy of the exam beforehand. By the quarterfinals they were locked in "like Maverick on a MIG" (popular reference from the movie Top Gun!). In their own words, they finally "got doubles" and found their inner beast to attack the net. Big Bird Alexei with his tall frame, blonde hair and sweet disposition morphed into a killer Pterodactyl (his new nickname), swooping down on his prey with closing volleys and bolting big first serves that left Clayton to put away the scraps at net. Clayton, for his part, returned with gusto and relished closing the net to show off his new-found volleying skills. In succession, they managed to defeat top teams from Princeton, Penn State and Brown all by THREE BREAKS OF SERVE in an eight game pro set. They were as hot as the cast iron fajitas skillet at the Border Café. Grade A+

While Clayton and Chijoff-Evans garnered the most attention, there were other breakout performances and lessons learned that will serve our squad well into the spring. Senior Sasha Ermakov lost in the round of sixteen to Princeton's top player peter Capkovic in three sets but showed a new level of energy and commitment to each point that can, if harnessed, put him among the elite players in the region.

Spencer Vegosen, our top recruit a few years back, who had to give up tennis for a few years with a back injury, is on the comeback trail and rejoined our team. He has injected a calm confidence into our team. Players seems to walk taller with him around. Spencer paired with Ermakov to reach the semifinals of the doubles in his first tournament in almost three years! Not too shabby.

Other notably performances were freshman Alistair Felton who advanced to the round of sixteen before falling to U. Penn's top player in three tough sets. Davis Mangham and Michael Hayes also learned about how to play at the next level gaining valuable experience against the best in the region. They are off to a good start and with lots more work they can go far.

You can read more about the weekend in the Crimson:

Andrew Rueb
Assistant Men's Tennis Coach

1 comment:

everythingtennis said...

Well Done to all Players!