Four Yalies got the chance to perform at the highest level of men’s college tennis this past weekend at the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships at Yale’s Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center.
Yale hosted the top 32 singles players and 16 doubles teams in the nation — among them, Yalies John Huang ’13 and Marc Powers ’13 in the singles division and Joel Samaha ’12 and Calvin Bennett ’11 competing together in the doubles division.
The Elis, who gained entrance into the prestigious tournament because Yale hosted it, held their own against some of the top-ranked players in the nation but, for the most part, saw early exits from the tournament.
The exception was Huang. After losing in the first round of the singles draw to Clint Bowles of Florida State, Huang defeated UCLA’s Amit Inbar in a drawn-out fight, 6–4, 4–6, 6–4, in the first round of the consolation singles. He fell in the next round, 6–1, 6–3, to Baylor’s Jordan Rux — the tournament’s No. 4 seed.
“Coach always told us that we could play with the best of the best, so I went out there and fought toe-to-toe with them like in any other game,” Huang said. “You never want to lose, especially on your own turf, so I played hard for the win in each game.”
But Huang’s teammates did not find as much success. Powers was defeated in the first round of singles play, 6–4, 6–1, against North Carolina’s Clay Donato. He then lost to Texas A&M’s Austin Krajicek in the consolation bracket. On the doubles’ side, Bennet and Samaha were defeated by Boris Conkis and Rhyne Williams of Tennessee and lost to Illinois’ Marek Czerwinski and Dennis Nevolo in the first round of the consolation doubles.
For the Elis, representing Yale in a tournament of this magnitude was an honor in itself — win or lose.
“It was a very rewarding experience to have the chance to compete with the best in the country as a freshman,” Powers said. “Nationals was a great way to cap of the season and leaves us with high hopes for a successful spring.”
The men’s singles finals featured a heated contest, riddled with tiebreaks and break points, between USC’s No. 5 ranked Steve Johnson and Georgia Tech’s Guillermo Gomez. Johnson came out on top after the three-set tiebreak match, winning 6–4, 6–7 (2), 7–6 (3).
Stanford’s No. 3 ranked doubles team, Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher, defeated Duke’s Reid Carleton and Henrique Cunha in three sets, 6–1, 3–6, 6–2. Despite the Cardinals’ lapse in the second set, this was the least close of the four finals matches; all others included one or more tiebreaks. With this victory, Stanford successfully swept the doubles titles in the tournament — a Stanford duo also won the women’s draw.
When Yale renovated new Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center in 2008, the directors wanted to make it not only beneficial to Yale but also accessible on a regional and national level, Yale Director of Tennis Operations Duke Diaz said. According to Diaz, Yale had its sights set on hosting the ITA Nationals even before it applied to be a host over a year ago because the new venue was attractive for the tournament officials with state-of-the-art lighting, new spectator seating and new lounges, locker rooms and courts for the players.
“Obviously it showcases the place, but it also is a very good boost to your recruiting efforts when you can mention to your athletes that we host such major events,” Diaz said. “It’s really an advantage to us.”
The Bulldogs next take the court in the spring semester with a scrimmage against Brown on Jan. 16, and they kick off the spring season with a visit to Radford on Jan. 30.
Correction: Nov. 11, 2009
An earlier version of this article misreported the scores for the ITA Indoor Championships men’s singles and doubles finals. The article has been changed to list the correct scores for the match between USC’s Steven Johnson and George Tech’s Guillermo Gomez, and the match between Stanford’s Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher and Duke’s Reid Carleton and Henrique Cunha.