Back at full strength, the Yale men’s tennis team (8-10, 2-2 Ivy) split two narrowly decided matches at home over the weekend, losing 4-3 to Columbia (6-6, 2-1) on Friday before beating Cornell (6-11, 1-4), 4-3, on Saturday.
Captain Rory Green ’08 returned to the courts this weekend after getting a thumbs up from trainers following a month-long back injury. And, it turned out, Green would hold Friday’s match on his shoulders.
With the match tied at 3-3, Green lost in a hard-fought match to Columbia’s Bogdan Borta, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.
Columbia, who won the Ivy League last year alongside Penn, would prove a tough opponent, staying evenly matched in doubles and taking two singles matches into third sets.
“The Columbia match was obviously very, very close,” Green said. “They are a very competitive team and will do whatever it takes to win.”
In doubles, Green and Jeff Dawson ’09 won 9-7 at No. 3 while Josh Lederman ’09 and Calvin Bennett ’11 eased to victory, 8-4, at No. 1.
After a win by Connor Dawson ’10 at No. 4 singles, 6-3, 6-2, the Bulldogs accepted straight-set defeats at Nos. 1, 2 and 6. Mike Caldwell ’09 was edged by his opponent, 6-4, 6-4. Jeff Dawson was topped, 6-4, 6-3, and Lederman fought back after losing his first set but could not pull off a win, 6-1, 7-5.
At that point, the match would be decided at Nos. 3 and 5, as both Green and Bennett fought into third sets.
Caldwell commended Bennett’s focus as the freshman fought to tie the overall match at 3-3. Bennett won, 6-1, 4-6, 7-5.
“It was unbelievable how loosely Calvin played on the big points,” he said. “When Calvin was down 5-3 in the third, he raised the level of his game.”
Jeff Dawson agreed: “I’ve never seen somebody respond to pressure the way Calvin did in his third set, and, mind you, he is a freshman.”
But Green, also mired in a third set, couldn’t clinch the win for the Bulldogs, losing to the Lions’ Borta.
“I was just trying to make him earn every point but in the end it wasn’t quite enough,” Green said. “But all things considered, I counted myself lucky to be out there playing the sport I love.”
Caldwell said he was impressed nevertheless.
“I know it was hard for him to lose the match, but he put on an amazing display in the face of adversity, and I think we were all proud to watch it.”
On Saturday, both Yale and Cornell, who had been crushed, 6-1, by Brown on Friday, sought to avenge losses from the previous day. But the Bulldogs proved the stronger team. The Elis swept the doubles matches after considerable effort at the No. 1 spot and battled to wins at the top three singles spots to clinch the win, 4-3.
At No. 2 doubles — played outdoors before rain would force matches inside — Bennett and Lederman found themselves down 7-3 before snapping out of the rut to take the next six straight games, winning 9-7.
In the singles bracket, Jeff Dawson played an in-your-face match against lefty Kyle Doppelt at No. 1. Dawson said he was seeing the court well, playing with intensity to take his opponent “out of his comfort zone.”
Green played, for the second day in a row, a long three-set match at No. 3. He said he felt much more confident in his game this time around, as evidenced by his 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 victory.
“Rory, again, had a great performance … with clutch backhand dippers propelling him to a victory,” Jeff Dawson commented.
Despite losses by the bottom half of the singles positions — Connor Dawson, Bennett and Lederman lost in straight sets — Caldwell narrowly pulled through to clinch the match with his win at No. 2, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.
Despite Caldwell’s powerful and precise serves, hitting lines to earn several aces during the match, his opponent too often managed to get the ball back over the net, pushing the match into a narrow third set. But with the game score tied at 4-4, Caldwell, a break and a win away from victory, held strong to clinch the match.
Jeff Dawson, who has been trading control of the No. 1 spot with Caldwell since the season began, said he was happy the top singles players carried the match.
“It was nice for me and Mike to come through and give the rest of the guys a break after they’ve been performing so well all year,” he said.
The Bulldogs travel to Cambridge on Friday to take on Harvard, a team yet undefeated in conference play this season. The Elis also play Dartmouth at home on Sunday.