For the third time in a row, the men’s tennis team (9-11, 3-3 Ivy) avenged a Friday loss with a big win in the second match to close out the weekend up one and down one.
After losing to No. 44 Harvard (13-6, 6-0) on the road Friday afternoon, 5-2, the Elis competed in a closely contested match against Dartmouth (6-10, 1-5) on Sunday, pulling off a win in the final seconds of the match, 4-3. Jeff Dawson ’09 edged past his Dartmouth opponent in a third-set tiebreaker, clinching the match for the Bulldogs in a dramatic turnaround.
After topping the Elis on Friday, the Crimson went on to shut out Brown (11-13, 4-2) on Sunday, 7-0, earning Harvard its sixth straight Ivy win and its 27th Ancient Eight championship.
“Although it would have been very nice to beat Harvard,” Mike Caldwell ’09 said, “they are a very strong team this year.”
Caldwell and Connor Dawson ’10 carried the flag for the team, coming up with hard-fought singles victories. At No. 1 singles, Caldwell defeated Harvard’s Ashwin Kumar in a 10-point tiebreaker, 3-6, 7-6, 10-8. Connor Dawson threw a wrench in opponent Dan Nguyen’s nine-match winning streak, claiming a 6-3, 5-7, 10-8 decision at No. 3.
Jeff Dawson, Calvin Bennett ’11, Josh Lederman ’09 and Jordan Abergel ’11 lost in straight sets in the remaining singles matchups.
But Sunday, the Bulldogs were back in action for their final home match of the season and their corresponding Senior Day on the courts.
Captain Rory Green ’08 sat out Friday, again sidelined by a chronic stress fracture in his back. But he completed a full doubles match alongside Jeff Dawson and played the first set of a singles match at No. 3 before retiring.
“I think it was apparent that I was going to struggle with my back, and that put added pressure on the rest of the guys to win their singles matches,” Green said.
“I think Rory put it best when he said our team has a special quality in that we fight for each other perhaps more than any other team,” Caldwell added. “That was on display yesterday against Dartmouth. No matter what the circumstances, we give everything we have until the last point is over.”
Despite losing the doubles point and Green’s match, the remaining singles players fought for each point, as the match would eventually come down to the wire.
At No. 2, Caldwell played an evenly matched first set against Dartmouth’s Daniel Freeman, with both players holding serve until Caldwell was able to break back in the final points of a tiebreaker. Caldwell carried the momentum to zip to a runaway lead in the second set, clinching the match with three straight aces, 7-6, 6-1.
Next to finish was Connor Dawson at No. 4, who fought both for the points and the line calls to surge to a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Dartmouth’s Jeffrey Schechtman.
“Connor has been improving with every match and is going to be an important leader next year,” Green said.
After Lederman lost at No. 6 singles, 6-4, 6-3, Bennett, who is becoming known as the team’s “comeback kid,” pulled through with a 6-4, 7-5 win at No. 5 to even the overall score at 3-3.
“Calvin’s comebacks are simply amazing,” Caldwell said. “He was down, 5-1, in the second set and again raised the level of his play to win the second set, 7-5, and win the match. He has a great head for the game and a lot of heart.”
But the most exciting match of the day was also the last one to finish — and the one that would determine the victorious team. At No. 1, Jeff Dawson and his opponent, Mark Brodie, played a match that kept the crowd on the edge of their seats.
After losing the first set, Dawson returned to cruise through the second, 6-1. Up to an early lead in the final set, 5-3, Dawson dropped key match points, letting Brodie break serve and close back in. Although Dawson broke back to rise to a 6-5 advantage, the match would be decided in a tiebreaker.
“You could cut the tension with a knife,” Tom Santoro ’09 said.
Dawson’s crosscourt slice backhand, coupled with Brodie’s impressive two-handed shot down the line, made for beautiful tennis as the crowd waited for the tiebreaker’s outcome. Dawson clinched the two-hour match, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (6), amid cheers.
“Jeff played great and left everything he had on the court,” brother Connor Dawson said.
The Bulldogs play their final match in Providence, R.I., against Brown on Wednesday.