Men’s tennis reaches semi-finals in ITA regional championship

Topjor Tsultrim

Men’s tennis battled its way to the semifinals of the 2018 ITA New England Regional Championships this weekend at Middlebury. Arturo Kam ’21 competed in the singles semifinals, while Peter Frelinghuysen ’22 and Alex Taylor ’20 took the court in the doubles bracket semifinals.

The Ephs enjoyed solid games of both singles and doubles play to open the first day of the competition. This tournament is the first competitive matchup for this years team, and it met the challenge in full stride. Sixty-five singles players and 33 doubles teams from 13 different colleges gathered at Middlebury to compete in a six round, elimination-style tournament. After the first two rounds of play, two of the Ephs’ three doubles teams advanced to the Round of 16, joined by two of the six singles players.

Taylor led the way for the Ephs’ singles team and emerged victorious over his opponent from Springfield after straight sets, winning 6-1 and 6-2. His second match to move on to the Round of 16 was much more closely contested. After dropping the first set 1-6, Taylor fought back to win 6-3 in the second set, before completing the comeback with a thrilling 10-8 victory in the third and final set to secure his progression to the next round.

Kam’s grit and determination showed up on the second day. Seeded eighth overall, Kam won his first match in straight sets. Like Taylor, Kam’s Round of 32 match-up went to three sets. After Kam and Tufts’ Isaac Gorelick split the first two sets 6-2 and 4-6, Kam ultimately pulled through with a 10-7 final set to seal the win for the Ephs.

Captain Deepak Indrakanti’s ’19 experience as a senior showed as he battled back from an early 1-6 loss, picking up the second match 6-3. However, in the end, the comeback fell short, despite a tightly contested 10-5 third set that advanced Middlebury’s Stanley Morris.

The Ephs also found success in the doubles matches of the day, with two of their three teams advancing to the Round of 16.

In a union of upperclassmen and underclassmen, Taylor and Frelinghuysen combined to take down Trinity’s Kaynor and Bilicic 8-4, advancing to the Round of 16. Kam and Calvin Chung ’21 teamed up to triumph over Bowdoin’s Justin Patel and Oscar Yang, 8-5.

Overall, the Ephs enjoyed victories in both singles and doubles matches, with several groups ready to head into day two’s competition.

The Ephs entered day two of the ITA New England Regional Championships ready to compete after a solid showing the previous day. Five Ephs saw action on Saturday, competing in both the singles and doubles brackets.

Taylor, after a hard-fought comeback to secure his spot in Saturday’s Round of 16, saw his tournament come to end at the hand of Middlebury’s Lubomir Cuba in straight sets, losing 6-4 and 6-1.

However, Kam would soon avenge his teammate’s defeat with his Round of 16 and quarterfinal victories. Kam found himself in the quarterfinals matched up against Middlebury’s Cuba, the same player who eliminated Taylor in the previous round. In a heated quarterfinal matchup, Kam opened the first set with a 2-6 loss. He bounced back well, quickly opening up a 4-1 lead in the second set. But, not long after, Middlebury’s Cuba sustained an injury that stopped play. The match ultimately ended there and Kam advanced to the singles bracket semifinals.

Despite his singles loss, Taylor rebounded strongly in doubles play with Frelinghuysen. The duo defeated MIT’s Alex Cauneac and Albert Go, 8-4, in the Round of 16. However, it was the pair’s quarterfinal matchup that proved to be a true highlight.

Williams found themselves face to face with a familiar opponent: Amherst, who began the tournament as the number one seeded doubles pair. The match, as all matchups between these two rivals of antiquity are, was fiercely contested all the way through.Taylor and Frelinghuysen found themselves tied 8-8 with Amherst’s Zach Bessette and Jayson Fung. As a result, the pairs played a tiebreaker, which the Ephs ultimately won, 7-3.

Greenberg was satisfied with the team’s collective performance today but made note of points of improvement. “We competed very well at times, but not as consistent as we’ll hope to be this year,” he said.

Three Ephs were in action on the third and final day with Kam competing in the singles semifinals and Frelinghuysen and Taylor competing in the doubles semifinals.

Frelinghuysen and Taylor lined up against Bowdoin’s Jerry Jiang and Justin Wang, who began the tournament as the number four overall seed. The match was competitive, with both sides going on runs and making plays, but the Ephs ultimately fell short against their opponents who would go on to win the doubles bracket.

Kam would later line up against Jiang from Bowdoin in the semifinals of the singles bracket. In what would turn out to be a true highlight of the day, Kam and Jiang battled back and forth, both unwilling to let the match slip away. Jiang managed to secure the first set 7-5, but Kam would soon come storming back to take the second set 6-2 for the Ephs. Unfortunately, Kam couldn’t complete the comeback victory, as Jiang emerged victorious after a hard-fought third set.

“[We] got off to slow starts in [the] doubles and singles semifinals, but our guys battle back well to give themselves a shot,” Greenberg said, commenting on the eventful day. “And Kam’s singles match was just an amazing fight. He managed to turn the tide after a close first set loss, even though Jiang seemed to be on fire, and really stepped up to take the second set. In the third set, he saved six or seven match points but ultimately fell short. But honestly, [it was] an inspiring performance from him that really set the standard for how we want to compete.”

With their first competitive tournament of the fall season behind them, the Ephs will  prepare for the upcoming ITA Oracle Cup next Wednesday, Oct. 10.