Casey MacMaster teams with Denis Nguyen to form the nation's No. 6-ranked doubles team (Photo: Dean Bauer).
The No. 28 Harvard men's tennis team will look to successfully defend its title this weekend at the Mission Valley Spring Classic, co-hosted by San Diego and San Diego State. The Crimson took home the tournament title in 2012 and again in 2013.
Last Year's Tournament
Harvard entered the 2013 Mission Valley Spring Classic riding a four-match win streak and looking to claim its second tournament title in as many years. Against UAB in the first round, Harvard's doubles teams of Andy Nguyen '13 and Nicky Hu and Alex Steinroeder and Kelvin Lam rolled to victories of 8-1 and 8-0, respectively. Nguyen, Lam and Shaun Chaudhuri breezed to straight-set wins in singles to help Harvard advance.
No. 37 San Diego State waited in the next round, and once again the doubles teams were able to get it done, earning wins on the first and third courts to claim the opening point of the match. After dropping the first set, 6-2, Harvard's top singles player Denis Nguyen won 12 of the final 13 games he played, polishing off a 2-6, 6-0, 6-1 win to bolster the Crimson singles effort. Andy Nguyen and Hu also picked up singles wins to propel the Crimson into the tournament final.
The Crimson squared off against No. 20 Drake on the final day of competition, looking to snap the Bulldogs' 17-match win streak. For the third time in three days, the doubles came through for Harvard with Casey MacMaster and Denis Nguyen winning 8-3 at No. 1 and Lam and Steinroeder clinching the point with a 9-7 win on the third court. Chaudhuri powered to a 6-2, 6-4 win at No. 2 singles and Andy Nguyen won, 6-3, 6-4, at No. 4. Then-freshman Hu clinched the match for Harvard in dramatic fashion, outlasting his opponent, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5), for the win at fifth singles.
Scouting the Crimson
With a record of 8-4 on the season and a national ranking of No. 29, Harvard heads into this year's tourney with a good amount of confidence. Denis Nguyen, the No. 37-ranked singles player in the country, has been strong for Harvard, boasting a 6-1 record in the top singles spot. Rookie Andrew Ball has been a buoy at the back end of the singles lineup, posting a 7-3 record between the fifth and sixth courts. MacMaster and Nguyen are 6-4 at first doubles in dual matches, and enter this weekend's tournament ranked as the nation's No. 6 doubles tandem.
Looking At The Field
While Harvard is the top-ranked team in the field, the Crimson will have plenty of stiff competition en route to a title defense, as seven of the eight teams in the tournament carry a national ranking. The Crimson faces No. 73 Denver in the opening round of the event Thursday, with the winner taking on the winner of the No. 40 Purdue/No. 61 San Diego matchup. With No. 43 Drake on the other side of the bracket, a possible 2013 finals rematch could only occur in the final round of this year's tournament. Here is a list of the teams in this year's tournament:
No. 28 Harvard (8-4)
No. 73 Denver (6-5)
No. 61 San Diego (7-5)
No. 40 Purdue (7-2)
No. 43 Drake (11-5)
No. 56 Princeton (9-5)
San Diego State (7-6)
No. 32 Memphis (6-2)
After completing its stay at the Mission Valley Spring Classic, the Crimson will host St. John's in a home match March 30 at the Murr Center. It will be Harvard's final non-conference dual match of the season, as Ivy play begins the following weekend at Columbia and Cornell.