Sports

M. tennis beat Columbia in ‘monumental’ match

By
Sports Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The men’s tennis team nabbed its most thrilling win of the season in New York on Friday, upsetting No. 57 Columbia, 4-3, in a battle decided by a third-set tiebreaker at first singles.

“I believe that Columbia — especially after winning at Harvard — was the favorite to win the league, so to go into their house and knock them off of that pedestal was extremely gratifying,” said Head Coach Jay Harris.

The Bears dropped a 5-2 decision to Cornell in Ithaca the next day, but are still competitive in the Ivy League standing, half a game back of Columbia for the top spot.

Brown 4, Columbia 3
The Bears clinched the doubles point to begin the battle, persisting in spite of an unfriendly atmosphere at the match.

“Our team came out knowing we would need to play our best to beat a good Columbia team, and we knew that started with the doubles matches,” said captain Chris Lee ’09. ‘To play away at Columbia with a tough crowd was difficult. We knew we had to stay focused and not be distracted by the activity that can sometimes occur with a hostile crowd.”

Kendrick Au ’11 and Charlie Posner ’11 took a quick 8-1 win over Rajeev Deb-Sen and Dan Urban at third doubles, but when captains Noah Gardner ’09 and Sam Garland ’09 dropped the first doubles match to Bogdan Borta and Mihai Nichifor by a score of 8-6, the doubles point hinged on the second doubles match.

The No. 55-ranked duo of Lee and Jonathan Pearlman ’11 readily handled the pressure. The Bears edged out Haig Schneiderman and Jon Wong in a tiebreaker for a final score of 9-8 (5), giving Brown a 1-0 lead.

The close contest continued in singles play. After Skate Gorham ’10 fell at third singles to Ekin Sezgen, Gardner defeated Sho Matsumoto at sixth singles by a score of 7-6 (6), 6-3 to maintain the Bears’ lead. At fourth singles, Garland triumphed over Schneiderman, 7-5, 7-6 (2), and at fifth singles, Au dropped a 6-4, 7-6 (5) decision to Deb-Sen.

Pearlman’s three-set loss to Nichifor at second singles tied the match at 3-3, setting the stage for a showdown between Lee and Borta at first singles.

“Chris battled one of the top players in the region,” Harris said. “Borta advanced to the finals of the ITA Regionals in the fall and is ranked No. 2” in the region.

Lee dropped the first set, 2-6, but bounced back to take the second set, 6-2.

“I lost the first set pretty badly, and the coaches told me that I had to impose my game on my opponent rather than the other way around,” Lee said. “I came out on fire and won the second.”

Lee’s fiery streak put him up 5-1 in the third set. Then, according to Lee, “I played a pretty poor five games to find myself down 5-6 and 0-15.”

But Lee held his serve to drive the match to a tiebreaker. According to Harris, Lee struggled with his nerves to the point of cramping, and while leading 6-3 in the tiebreaker had to call an injury timeout, with three match points upcoming.

“I was cramping so bad that I actually had to pry my finger off my racket,” Lee said.
Borta won the next two points to bring the score to 6-5, but Lee prevailed in his third match point.

“We played a pretty long point, and then after nine or 10 rallies, he missed it long,” Lee said. “I got mobbed by my teammates, alumni and coaches. It was a feeling I will never forget.”

According to Harris, Lee’s victory “will be remembered as monumental.” Harris called the Bears’ win over Columbia “our best team effort of the season for sure. We battled a great team, a hostile crowd and some egregious officiating, but we still came out with one the best efforts and wins in the history of our program.”

Cornell 5, Brown 2

The Bears were unable to continue their domination the next day against Cornell.
“As hard as we worked to stay away from a letdown after the amazing win at Columbia, I believe the energy we expended to capture that win actually wore us down a bit and hurt us in the Cornell match,” Harris said. “But having said that, Cornell has a great team, and they played extremely well.”

The Bears ceded the doubles point to the Big Red, despite an 8-6 win by Gardner and Garland at first singles. Lee and Pearlman fell, 8-2, to Jeremy Feldman and Andy Gauthier at second doubles, while Au and Posner dropped an 8-4 decision to Mirza Klis and Marc Asch at third doubles.

“I felt we came out a little flat,” Lee said. “Jon and I did not play at the level we are capable of playing, and the result reflected that.”

Lee and Pearlman were the only Bears to record singles wins that day. At first singles, Pearlman trounced Jonathan Jaklitsch, 6-1, 6-1.

“Jon Pearlman played his best singles match of his career, winning 11 straight games,” Harris said.

At second singles, Lee soundly defeated Joshua Goldstein, 6-3, 6-4. Gorham, Gardner and Au dropped straight-set matches at third, fifth and sixth singles, respectively.
Meanwhile, at fourth singles, Garland narrowly lost to Feldman in a third-set super-breaker, for a final score of 6-4, 4-6, 1-0 (10-8).

“The loss to Cornell will actually help us, not in the Ivy standings necessarily, but for our team’s growth and development,” Harris said. “We kind of needed one more kick in the pants to remind us what kind of effort it takes to win any Ivy match, and I believe we will hold on to that lesson for the rest of the season no matter who we play.”

The Bears will next face off against Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., on Friday.

“I feel a little different than in years past about Harvard,” Harris said. “In the past — even last year — we got up for the other Ivy matches, but we always treated the Harvard match like the pinnacle of the season. Now that the Ivy League has so much more parity, we have to treat every Ivy match like it is the pinnacle of our season just to win one. Because we have done that to go 3-1 so far in the league, we are very battle-tested and ready to take on just another Ivy League battle.”

The Bears will then return to Providence to play Dartmouth on Sunday. Sunday will also be Senior Day, featuring a reception after the match.

“I know Noah, Sam, Basu (Ratnam ’09) and I are all going to be pretty emotional,” Lee said. “To have played in front of our dedicated fans and home crowd these last four years has been such a privilege. I will miss the team so much next year.”