Men’s tennis | Doubles hits new heights

No more doubles-troubles for the Bulldogs.

In its second tournament this season, the men’s tennis team traveled to Princeton, N.J., over the weekend for the annual Princeton-Farnsworth Invitational. The highlight of the two-day event was the victory of Mike Caldwell ’09 and Joel Samaha ’12, who defeated Cornell, 8-5, to top the doubles “B” flight.

Michael Caldwell ’09 hits a backhand against Columbia on April 11. Caldwell won the doubles “B” flight with Joel Samaha ’12 this weekend.
Eric Anderson
Michael Caldwell ’09 hits a backhand against Columbia on April 11. Caldwell won the doubles “B” flight with Joel Samaha ’12 this weekend.

The tournament featured teams from eight schools, four drawn from the Ivy League. Caldwell said the level of competition was in line with typical Ancient Eight play, but that the Bulldogs definitely have some work to do in coming months.

“I don’t think everyone is quite up to speed yet,” he said. “It is always a little difficult coming back from the summer and getting back in the swing of things. We had some good performances as a team, although it definitely could have gone better.”

The nonstop rain Friday and Saturday forced the matches to be played indoors — in the Tigers’ six-court complex nicknamed “The Dungeon” — and the tight conditions slowed down the progression of matches.

“At times we forgot there was even an outside world,” Samaha said, noting that some doubles matches were played past midnight.

But despite 11th-hour match play, the Bulldogs pulled through with a handful of victories. Head coach Alex Dorato said he was particularly happy with the team’s doubles results, led by the team’s new recruits, Samaha and Erik Blumenkranz ’12.

In the singles “A” flight, Connor Dawson ’10, captain Jeff Dawson ’09 and Calvin Bennett ’11 advanced to the second round before being eliminated. Dorato commended Bennett, who played in Yale’s Nos. 4 and 5 positions last year, for toppling a player ranked as Cornell’s No. 2. Connor Dawson also knocked out a top Cornell player — last year’s No. 1 Kyle Doppelt — 6-1, 6-4, in the first round.

Also in “A” singles, Jeff Dawson won his second-round match against Sven Vloegraven of Binghamton in three sets. Dawson was later ousted by a Columbia player in the third round.

In “B” singles, Ryan Berman ’11, Tom Santoro ’09, Josh Lederman ’09, Matt Schimmel ’10 and Samaha all won their first-round matchups, but only Samaha advanced past the second round.

New recruit Blumenkranz was eliminated, 6-3, 7-5, by Columbia in his first match, but the freshman bounced back with an 8-4 victory in the consolation bracket.

In “A” doubles, a Princeton duo eliminated Connor Dawson and Bennett, 8-3, in the second round.

Caldwell and Dorato both said that of the competing schools, Columbia looked especially strong. The Lions captured three of the four spots in “A” flight semifinals and went on to win both “A” singles and doubles.

In Ivy League play this past April, the Lions picked up a 4-3 victory over the Elis.

“[Columbia] will definitely be tough competition,” Caldwell said. “But it’s a long season, and there are lots of improvements to be made, so I am not too worried about how things will shake out.”

Caldwell and Samaha, playing for the first time as a doubles team, clinched a 9-7 win over St. John’s in the first round of the “B” flight, followed by a quick 8-2 victory over Cornell in the second round. After taking down George Washington University in the semis, the Bulldogs cruised to an 8-5 trouncing of Cornell again in the finals.

Samaha said the key to victory was their aggressive net play and seizing key break points that would decide the match. After all, Dorato laughed, the two six-foot-something players “have quite the wing span” at the net.

“Since Mike and I are both so tall,” Samaha explained, “when both of us are at the net it is difficult for the other guys to pass us, and we are able to be really aggressive from the get-go.”

Yale’s top two players, Jeff Dawson and Caldwell, will travel to Tulsa, Okla., for the Oct. 3 pre-qualifiers of the All-American tournament, where Dorato said he hopes the seniors will take advantage of the national exposure. Meanwhile, the rest of the Bulldogs will be off to the Brown Invitational in Providence, R.I.

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