Friday, March 01, 2013

#23 Harvard Men’s Tennis: News and Court Views/ The 2013 Season – Part I – The "Highlight Reel" Edition

#23 Harvard Men's Tennis:  News and Court Views


The 2013 Season – Part I – The Highlight Reel Edition


In This Issue:

The J-Term Training Session

Opening Salvo: Kick-Off Weekend in Norman

NYC Stumble

Riding High in Evanston

ECAC Tournament Ups and Downs

Upcoming matches:  Indiana and Louisville


It has been a long time since the last newsletter from the 2013 HMT Team.  This unabridged edition will bring everyone up-to-date on the topsy-turvy season thus far.  This weekend begins Part II of the season, with matches at home against Indiana (Saturday at noon) and Louisville (Sunday at 10am) and Boston University Sunday at 4pm).  Come out and support the Crimson!  


The J-Term Training Session:


            With finals exams now before the winter break, we have the luxury of having the boys back on campus for two weeks in mid-January with nothing on their minds except tennis (well, not much other than tennis!)!  On the first day of practice the team passed the Dominator test with flying colors (25 sprints of 5-10-15 yards under 14 seconds each with 25 sec of rest).  Below is a photo of the boys with all 25 balls marking each Dominator.   We were able to train twice a day to get in shape for the ITA Kick-Off Event in Norman, OK. 


            In addition to the tennis, we also used the time to engage the team in off court training.  We did a lot of yoga, visualization and even read the masterwork, Zen in the Art of Archery.  The J-term also had a professional development component.   The opening banquet with the men and women's teams was a great event that allowed our students to mingle and talk about career issues with a range of alums like Jordan Bohnen, Scott Denenberg, Shantanu Dhaka, Alex Seaver, Debbie Kaufmann Goldfine, Bruce Price and Jay Stack.  See photo below for a visual on the great evening.  Both teams gave visual slide set to music that tugged at the heartstrings.


Kick-Off in Cowboy Country:

15 ITA Kickoff events, each with four teams, are run all over the country.  The winners are invited to compete in the ITA National Indoor Team Championships, where they join the host team – The University of Washington. The Kickoff weekend was January 25-27, and we choose to play at the University of Oklahoma.


Qualification from our region for the old "National Indoors" (then held usually in Louisville) was once based on who won the ECAC fall championships.  No longer!  Selection for the January Kickoff weekend is now based on the previous year's national ranking.   Due to on our #23 finish last year, we were the second seed in our bracket . Oklahoma was the top dog. 


            We travelled to Norman where John Roddick's Sooners (yes, Andy's older brother and coach) hosted Notre Dame and Memphis in our four-team showdown.  We played Notre Dame in the first round. It was only fitting that Fish and Bayliss battled it out in what is Coach Bayliss' last year in coaching before being unanimously voted into the ITA Hall of Fame.


The match would prove very exciting.   Going into the weekend the Harvard boys were suffering from a series of injuries that kept #1 Denis Nguyen (strained groin) and #4 Andy Nguyen (hip) out of the singles line-up.   Our expectations were low, considering Bayliss' boys had informally taken all seven matches against us in a fall tournament at William and Mary with our full lineup.  But the team didn't seem to read (or care) about the odds makers.   With a reshuffled line-up, we won the doubles point.  Alex Steinroeder and freshmen Nicholas Mahlangu dropped the hammer with an emphatic 8-0 win at third dubs, while, at first doubles, Casey MacMaster and Shaun Chaudhuri edged out their Irish duo in a tie-breaker.   In singles, it would prove to be a long day.  


Alex Steinroeder would earn our first singles point by downing Blas Moros at the #2 slot.  Moros was undefeated on the season at 11-0 for the Fighting Irish but Alex worked him out of his comfort zone with a dizzying array of slices, spins, serves and volleys.  Casey MacMaster notched our third point on the day with a win against junior archrival Billy Pecor.  Notre Dame would garner three singles points with wins at #1, #3, and #6 to even the score.  That left Vegas freshmen, Nicholas Mahlangu, as the last man standing.  He was playing against Irish veteran Wyatt Mccoy.  Mahlangu had earlier dug himself out of big hole in the second set and was down 4-1 in the third before inspiration returned.  Mahlangu attacked his opponent's forehand relentlessly as he came forward on every short ball.  The frosh again trailed 5-3 before rattling off the last four games.  The team mobbed him after the match. We were glad that Adam Beren and his son, Samuel, were able to make the trip down from Wichita to watch such an exciting match.  It certainly brought us much luck! 


            The following day, we ran out of healthy bodies.  Several more players went down for the count with injuries - leaving us with only 5 healthy players!!!  It was too much to ask against the Sooners – a top 10 team – and we fell hard 4-0.   


NYC Stumble:

            In our second weekend of play, we scheduled a double-header against St. John's and Alabama on Friday, February 1st at the National Tennis Center in Queens to be followed by a match against Old Dominion University on Sunday at the Murr.  Unfortunately, our bodies didn't handle the additional stress as well as we would hoped.   We fought hard and battled close but didn't have enough firepower.  We were able to defeat St. John's 4-0 before falling 4-2 against Alabama.   There were notable performances on the weekend including freshmen Conor Haughey who was up a set a break against his Tide foe and playing some great tennis.


No rest for the weary.  After driving home on Saturday, we faced Old Dominion at home 4-3, despite an almost storybook near upset/comeback by Shaun Chaudhuri against ODU's impressive #1.  


There were a lot of positives on the weekend.   We competed hard and made no excuses.  We did sit out some players and allowed them to heal for the upcoming weekend of matches in Chicago.   Everyone was excited to see how we could do the next weekend in Chicago against highly ranked Northwestern and Vanderbilt.


Evanston Showdown:


            On Saturday, February 9th the Crimson exorcised some demons from the past, downing the Wildcats of Northwestern 4-3.   This time it was Harvard that had the magic mojo.  In the doubles point, the Cats raced out ahead by smothering us at third doubles and holding 4 consecutive match points at second doubles.  (College doubles experimented with no-add scoring for the first four weeks of the season to great reviews).  At the second slot, senior, veteran and co-captain Andy Nguyen with freshmen star Nicky Hu looked defeat squarely in the eye and didn't blink.  The Northwestern tandem was up 40-0 and serving for the match (as you know that is 4 match points in the no-add system), only to rattle off four straight points!   They carried the momentum all the way to the finish and won in a tie breaker to tie up the match at 1-1 in doubles.   That left our #1 pair of Captain Casey MacMaster and Denis Nguyen.  They also fought off three match points in a 13-11 breaker.  It was one for the ages!  Harvard 1 Northwestern 0 after saving 7 match points.


            On to the singles, with yet more drama.  Northwestern quickly pulled ahead 2-1 with strong performances at #2 and #3 singles, as Shaun Chaudhuri and Alex Steinroeder fell in straight sets.   At #6, captain Casey fell to an inspired and tough Mihir Kumar, which put the Cats one point from the win.   That left three matches on court and three singles points that Harvard had to have.  Freshman Nicky Hu lit up the Evanston courts with laser one-handed backhands and sizzling forehands to inch the Crimson closer to the goal line.  That left two matches up in the air with Andy and Denis Nguyen both entrenched in third sets.  The pun of "win" (Nguyen!) rang out from the stands again and again as Andy was the first to finish and knot the match at 3.  Denis was all alone at the top spot, with the match hanging in the balance.  This was not his first rodeo (think back to the Ivy clinching win against Dartmouth).   Denis was able to break the very tough Spencer Wolf (Wildcat senior captain) at 5-5 in the third and served it out with some clutch aces down the stretch.  Perhaps the magic could be attributed to two special alums in the stands – Alistair Felton and Ashwin Kumar!  See attached photos.  Harvard 4, Northwestern 3. 


            The team regrouped with a lovely dinner hosted by Alex Schultheis and Andrea Mainelli in their beautiful home in Evanston.   The team stayed with families in the neighborhood organized through Alex and Andrea.  We really enjoy staying with Harvard alums throughout the country.  Many of the families have become part of the fabric of the team.  It not only saves our budget but also creates lasting bonds and great examples of hospitality to our boys. 


The good vibes continued the next day with more drama against Vandy.   The doubles was not as close this time, with Harvard winning at #1 and #2 in convincing fashion 8-4, 8-3 respectively.  It was the best doubles performance of the year thus far.   In singles, we would race out to an early 3-1 lead, as Alex Steinroeder and Andy Nguyen would make quick work of their Commodores foes at the third and fourth positions.  While we were only one point from the finishing line – we knew that we were still a long way off.   Nicky Hu would fall at #5 to a very strong South African while Denis Nguyen lost to the smooth and effortless Ryan Lipman (a former Kalamazoo champ) at the top of the line-up.  Two left and we needed one.  Casey MacMaster at #6 and Shaun Chaudhuri at #2 were left to see who could put us over the hump.  Both leaped out to big leads in the third.  Shaun would finish first and seal the deal.  Chaudhuri's victory against the highly ranked Gonzalez Austin (also a KZoo champ) was a true masterpiece.  While always known for his focus and consistency, Shaun proved he could rev up the engines and hit with power and attack when needed.  It was that new dimension to his game that enabled him to succeed.  A weary but happy Crimson team returned home after their third consecutive weekend on the road.  That left only one more event before a rest and the second part of the season…


ECAC Championships: 

The weekend in Ithaca was another great test for the boys and a chance to keep building their skills.  While we couldn't avoid the injury bug (Denis would strain his groin again) we did register some gritty performances.  We were seeded first in the event but had to settle for third as the hometown Cornell Big Red downed us in the semis and Columbia in the finals for the title.  We opened with a fiercely competitive and high-level match with Yale, but fell  to Cornell the next day 4-3.  The boys rebounded from this painful loss by beating Princeton without our trusty #1, as Hong Kong freshman Kelvin Lam stepped up to the challenge.  The match was tied at 3-3 after singles (as the last match of the tournament beginning at 5:30pm at night, we played singles first in a effort to get home before dawn from Ithaca…) leaving doubles as the decider.  It was the most exciting college energy I have seen in years.  It reminded me of the old days when doubles was played after singles.   Andy Nguyen and Nicky Hu moved up to the top slot with the injury to Denis.  They beat the Tiger's #1 pair – featuring top 5 ranked national star Matecj Pecotic – 8-2 – in what felt like 20 minutes.  It was a phenomenal performance that just lit up the crowd and their teammates.  Steinroeder and Chaudhuri were clawing their way back to even in the third spot, when MacMaster and Lam broke through.  After going down an early break, Kelvin transformed into a wizard – ripping winners from everywhere.  It was truly a moment to behold as he laced the clinching return past the Princeton duo.    Sure made the long bus ride home a lot more enjoyable! 


Please join us this weekend!  See you at the courts.

Writer: Andrew Rueb

Editor in chief: Dave Fish

Player in Chief: Eric Butorac

Dave Fish
E. Scott Mead Family Head Coach of Men's Tennis
Harvard University Dept of Athletics
Murr Center
65 N. Harvard St.
Boston, MA 02163
GoCrimson Men's Tennis website
Harvard Men's Tennis blog

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