In preparation for the start of its Ivy season, the men’s tennis team fed the Midshipmen of Navy a bagel last Saturday in a 7-0 victory.
“It was exciting because everyone seems to be playing well,” Prateek Tandon ’03 said. “So hopefully the team has good momentum heading into Ivies.”
Demonstrating the depth of the Eli squad, the Bulldogs decisively defeated the Midshipmen even without two of their regular players. Ryan Coyle ’02 sat out of the doubles lineup because of illness, and an aggravated shoulder injury forced David Goldman ’04, who alternates between the No. 3 and No. 4 singles positions, to compete only in doubles for the day.
Not only did Yale sweep the seven points of the match, but they also won all three doubles pro-sets. Steve Berke ’03 paired up with teammate Dustin West ’04 to defeat their opponents at the No. 2 doubles position 8-2, while the No. 1 team of Captain Greg Royce ’01 and Goldman and the No. 3 team of Scott Carlton ’01 and Chris Shackelton ’03 both won 8-6.
After securing the 1-0 lead, the Bulldogs returned to the courts to take on their opponents in singles competition, during which they collectively won 73 of 96 games played.
Playing in the No. 1 slot, Berke soundly defeated Ben Salomon 6-1, 6-0 while Royce crushed his No. 2 opponent 6-0, 6-2. Shackelton also handed his opponent a bagel in his 6-4, 6-0 victory at the No. 4 singles position.
Carlton and freshman Andrew Rosenfeld both won their No. 3 and No. 5 singles matches 6-2, 6-3 and 6-3, 6-1, respectively, while Tandon triumphed in the closest match of the day at the No. 6 position 6-2, 7-5.
The sweep was the complete reverse of the 7-0 loss to the Midshipmen played at the Naval Academy last spring.
“Even though we were expected to beat them, it was still nice to avenge last year’s lost,” Royce said. “It was a confidence booster in the sense that we destroyed them.”
The Bulldogs also jumped two spots in the national rankings this weekend. The No. 54 squad faces Ancient Eight teams Pennsylvania and Princeton this weekend as it kicks off its Ivy season.
Last year the Bulldogs lost to both the Quakers and Tigers on the road. This weekend they seek revenge on home turf.
But it won’t be a walk in the park. The Quakers, who defeated the Elis 5-2 last spring, return with five of their six singles players. Last year, the Elis secured the doubles point with victories at the No. 2 and No. 3 positions — a single point is awarded to the team that wins two of the three doubles’ matches — while Carlton’s singles victory secured Yale’s other point.
Their battle with the Tigers will be even tougher this year. The perennial powerhouse and fall regional champions defeated the Bulldogs 6-1 last year and graduated only two seniors from the winning squad.
Shackelton was the sole Eli victor at the No. 5 singles slot last season, when he narrowly defeated John Portlock in a third set tiebreaker.
Portlock, incidentally, returned to competition last week for the first time since an ankle injury sidelined him November.
The team is expected to beat Penn and is favored over Princeton, but it recognizes that everyone must play well in order to win both contests.
“We cannot afford an off day against either team,” Royce said.
But the Bulldogs are eager to kick off their most important month of play.
“Everyone is excited to begin play in the Ivies and ready to take the first two matches of the season,” Royce added.
Playing at home is a great advantage, especially if fans come out to support and rattle opposing teams.
“If everyone and their mother comes out, we will definitely win our matches,” Berke said.
Play begins Friday at 2:30 p.m. when the Bulldogs first take on Penn. They return the next day to battle it out with Princeton starting at 12:30. Provided that the weather warms up and the rain holds off, the matches will be held at the outdoor courts behind Smilow Field House.
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