Brandon Wai ’07 has done it again.
A week after winning the A Flight Singles bracket at the Princeton Invitational, Wai defeated players from Cornell, Columbia and Dartmouth to take the A Flight Singles title at the Yale Invitational, which took place this past Friday through Sunday on the Elis’ home tennis courts.
“Brandon [Wai] obviously kept his role going,” Yale captain Ryan Murphy ’05, who was out with a wrist injury this weekend, said. “He beat three guys who will probably play the number one spot for Ivy League schools pretty convincingly, so it was definitely a bright spot.”
Because of a first-round bye, Wai played just one match each day of the tournament. On Friday, he defeated Cornell’s Brett McKeon 6-1, 6-2, on Saturday he crushed Columbia’s Ashkay Rao 6-2, 6-2 and on Sunday, surrounded by his cheering team, Wai closed the tournament with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Dartmouth’s David Webb.
Wai’s big win at Princeton last weekend could have contributed to his sweep this weekend.
“I feel like I had some momentum and it’s going well,” Wai said. “Hopefully next weekend [at the ECACs] I can keep it going and win some matches for our team.”
The Elis were plagued by injuries and other factors that kept some of the Bulldogs from playing this weekend. Murphy was out of action because of the wrist injury, junior Rowan Reynolds’ knee injury will keep him out for the entire fall season and Rory Green ’08 is still waiting to get clearance from the NCAA to play. But Yale still pulled through with some impressive matches.
“I thought it went well, given that Ryan Murphy couldn’t play — that really hurt us,” Yale head coach Alex Dorato said. “And of course Rowan [Reynolds is] still out, but given all of that I thought we played well. Milosz [Gudzowski ’06] played A Flight and beat Princeton’s number three player in the opening round. He was playing great. Johnny Lu [’05] took fifth place in the B division and he’s starting to play better. Matt Feldman [’06] won a couple matches in the back draw and he’s playing better. I thought everyone was playing at a high level. I was pretty happy.”
Feldman ended up going two and one in singles, and he and Lu took third place overall in B Flight doubles.
“[Lu] and I played really well,” Feldman said. “I think we had great chemistry. We played with each other two years ago and had some success but we only played a few matches. We both wanted to play together again and we finally got put together.”
Feldman and Lu won their first two matches in nail-biting tie-breakers — 9-8 (8-6) over Princeton and 9-8 (7-5) over Columbia — but the pair was able to keep its cool and focus on the task at hand. After falling to Dartmouth 8-2, the Eli duo won third place 8-2.
Lu and Feldman employed the tactic of staying back near the baseline, where they feel they can play their strongest games.
“Our returns are our strong point, which gave us a big advantage right away in all the matches,” Feldman said. “We stay back because we feel pretty confident in our ground strokes. We feel like our ground strokes can match up to any volleys. If our returns are good and our ground strokes are good, I think we have an advantage from the baseline.”
Lu also said playing from the baseline works well for the pair and helped them immensely this weekend.
“We hit big returns to set up weak replies and take control of the point from there,” Lu said.
Looking ahead to the ECACs next weekend in Flushing Meadow, N.Y., the Bulldogs are hoping to excel as a team. With tough competition coming from the top 16 schools in the Northeast division — including all of the Ancient Eight squads and favorites such as Penn State — each individual match will count more than ever and will go towards the team’s ultimate collective finish.
“We’re all pretty excited to get out there and play as a team,” Murphy said. “Individual matches are good and they’re good experience, but we’re looking to see how we’ll all play as a team. I think we’re going in pretty confident.”
Murphy will begin practicing again tomorrow and is hoping that he can contribute this weekend. But the Bulldogs will struggle to compete without the help of Reynolds and Green.
“I think our doubles is going to be okay this weekend,” Dorato said. “It will be a little makeshift without Rowan [Reynolds] and Chris [Lawler ’07, who is returning from an abdominal injury] is just starting to play so he’s a little rusty. But I was very happy with Matt [Feldman] and Johnny [Lu]. They played great, so I’ll probably keep them together for this weekend. And having Ryan [Murphy] back means I can put Brandon and Ryan together, and they’re an excellent number one team. I think it will be good.”