TENNIS: Yale to host tennis’ best

Forty-seven schools representing 24 states have at least one entry in this week’s ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championship to be hosted by Yale. Besides Yale, Harvard and Brown are the only Ivy League schools with entries. Photo by YDN.

Yalies looking to watch the best collegiate tennis players in the country compete won’t have to travel far this week.

Beginning Thursday, Yale will host the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) International Indoor Championship, which will take place at Yale’s own Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center — just dedicated last fall — throughout the weekend.

The ITA National Indoors is the second of the three national competitions that take place throughout the tennis season. The tournament features 32 singles players and 16 doubles teams for both the men’s and women’s tournaments.

The pool from which the players are chosen is competitive and prestigious. Selections included the champions from the Wilson/ITA Regional Championships, the ITA National Small College tournament, the D’Novo/ITA Men’s All-American Tennis Championships and Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championships.

As the host team this year, Yale received two wildcard bids in both the men’s and women’s singles fields, and a wildcard bid in the two doubles fields. The ITA National Tournament Committee selected the remaining competitors through at-large selections, based on preseason ITA national rankings and performance in the players’ respective ITA Regional Championships.

This is the first time Yale has ever hosted this event, let alone any national tennis tournament. The University of Virginia hosted the event last year after the Ohio State University played host the previous three years. The opportunity for Yale to host the competition is chiefly due to the renovation of the Cullman-Heyman tennis center — a renovation that has lifted morale all season, Stephanie Kent ’12 of the women’s team said.

“Yale tennis has taken drastic steps to design Cullman-Heyman,” Kent said. “We are extremely lucky to have received so many alumni donations to construct this beautiful facility, which gave us the opportunity to host Nationals in the first place. When I walked into the renovated building, I was astounded to see the transformation. Our facility embodies all that we work to represent the atmosphere is completely Yale oriented and heightens team spirit everyday.”

As hosts of the competition, Yale received six wildcard bids — two men’s singles, two women’s singles and a doubles team on both sides. These bids offer a very exciting opportunity for Yale players who would not normally compete in such a high-profile event. The last Yalie to participate in the event was Brandon Wai in 2006, and the only time Yale won an event at the competition was in 1978, the competition’s first year. That year, Yale’s Matt Doyke and Cary Leeds teamed up to defeat the duo of Kent Crawford and Dave Sherbeck from the University of Utah, 7–6, 6–1, to win the men’s doubles title.

“I feel honored to be chosen to play in this event,” said Jessie Rhee ’10, who will be competing in singles. “It will be a great opportunity to compete against the country’s best players.”

Joining Rhee on the courts will be Kent and Vicky Brook ’12. Rhee and Kent are both playing singles, and Brook will join Kent for doubles.

Competing in men’s singles will be John Huang ’13 and Marc Powers ’13, who advanced to the men’s singles final at the ITA Northeast Regional Championships last month. Competing in doubles will be Calvin Bennett ’11 and Joel Samaha ’12 (a last minute substitution for injured Connor Dawson ’10).

Players said they were excited for the opportunity to compete against some of the nation’s best.

“I am full of nervous excitement right now.” Bennett said. “The event is of a caliber I have yet to see… It’s a great privilege to be able to participate in such a high quality and well-respected event.”

Kent said her team has utmost confidence in facing any other team due to the amount preparation it has put in.

And the players have been preparing — everything from swimming laps to running laps around the Yale bowl. But they’ll need more than physical fitness to compete in this competition.

“At this point, it’s all about being mentally tough and seeing who wants it more,” Rhee said.

More than anything, the competing Elis hope to do their teams and Yale proud.

“All I expect is that we try our best during every point so that we can end the day with a sense of well-deserved satisfaction in ourselves, our team, and our school,” Bennett said.

The ITA National Indoor Competition starts on Thursday, Nov. 5, and ends with the championship matches on Sunday, Nov. 8.

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