NORMAN, Okla. – In an epic, back-and-forth, weather-delayed, six hour battle, the No. 34 Harvard men's tennis team came up just short to No. 28 Northwestern, 4-3, Friday afternoon at the Headington Family Tennis Center in the first round of the NCAA Championships.
Held at the University of Oklahoma, the match was twice delayed – once for lightning after which the teams moved inside, and once for 45 minutes after a tornado warning.
To start the match, the Crimson won a tough doubles point on the outdoor courts to take a 1-0 lead. The 'Cats (21-9) took the first match at the No. 1 position before freshman Grant Solomon and senior captain Denis Nguyen knotted it up with an 8-6 win on court three. Sophomore Sebastian Beltrame and freshman Jean Thirouin battled an early deficit to take the point for the Crimson (19-8) with a 7-5 tiebreaker.
Junior Nicky Hu gave Harvard a 2-0 cushion with a 6-4, 6-3 win at the No. 2 position. Northwestern battled back with three-straight wins at the No. 3, No. 4, and No. 6 positions to gain a 3-2 advantage.
After winning a close 7-6 (9-7) first set, Nguyen dispensed Sam Shropshire with a 6-3 win in the second to knot the score at 3-3. As it has several times this season, the deciding point would come down to freshman Kenny Tao. The rookie won the first set, 7-6 (7-4), before dropping a 6-4 decision in the second. In the midst of the third set, the tornado threatened and the team had to be moved to shelter. Over 45 minutes later, play resumed and a back-and-forth battle – that the Crimson seemed to win at two points – would fall Fedor Baev's way in the tiebreaker, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 7-6 (9-7).
1. Nguyen, Denis (HARV) def. Sam Shropshire (NU) 7-6 (9-7), 6-3
2. Hu, Nicky (HARV) def. Strong Kirchheimer (NU) 6-4, 6-3
3. Konrad Zieba (NU) def. Beltrame, Sebastian (HARV) 6-1, 6-3
4. Logan Staggs (NU) def. Yeung, Brian (HARV) 6-3, 6-4
5. Fedor Baev (NU) def. Tao, Kenny (HARV) 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 7-6 (9-7)
6. Alp Horoz (NU) def. Solomon, Grant (HARV) 6-2, 7-6 (7-2)
1. Sam Shropshire/Konrad Zieba (NU) def. Hu, Nicky/Yeung, Brian (HARV) 8-2
2. Beltrame, Sebastian/Thirouin, Jean (HARV) def. Fedor Baev/Strong Kirchheimer (NU) 8-7 (7-5)
3. Nguyen, Denis/Solomon, Grant (HARV) def. Alp Horoz/Mihir Kumar (NU) 8-6