Fit and confident from its new training regimen and daily practices, the men’s tennis team conquered this weekend’s Columbia Invitational Tournament in Manhattan.
The Bulldogs managed to win three out of the four brackets, and fronted both players in the Flight A singles final. Ryan Murphy ’05 defeated Brandon Wai ’07, giving Yale a first and second place win. Rowan Reynolds ’06 easily crushed Columbia’s Michael Accordino (6-1, 6-0) to take the Flight B singles championship. In Flight A doubles, Murphy and Wai teamed up to take on Lions Marty Moore and Ashkay Rao for a quick 8-2 win in an eight game pro-set.
Yale head coach Alex Dorato was especially satisfied with the tournament, highlighting some of the weekend’s key players.
“Ryan Murphy stands out,” Dorato said. “I think he played the best tennis I’ve ever seen him play. And Brandon Wai had a good tournament, making it to the finals. I was also very pleased with Rowan Reynolds. He beat someone about as badly as you can beat them — 6-1, 6-0.”
The tournament bodes well for the Eli’s spring season, during which they will face their toughest rivals Harvard and Brown on April 25 and April 29, respectively.
“I think we can do well [this season],” Andrew Rosenfeld ’04 said. “Harvard is definitely the team to beat.”
Rosenfeld, the Bulldog’s top player, withdrew from the Invite during his second-round match, the Flight A Singles semi-finals. Rosenfeld’s default propelled Wai into the final round.
“My tricep was bugging me so I didn’t want to injure it too bad so I pulled out,” Rosenfeld said. “I was just trying to get some matches in.”
Rosenfeld is not the only player on the injured list. Johnny Lu ’05 is recovering from a torn ACL and captain David Goldman ’04 is working through a foot injury.
“Johnny Lu is playing now,” Dorato said. “He’s not at his best yet but I think he’ll be fine to play. And Dave Goldman — I certainly hope he’ll be fine to play.”
Murphy reasoned that a healthy roster will help to build upon the progress the Bulldogs have already made.
“This is a great start,” Murphy said. “We have the potential to be the best team since I’ve been here. We have the most talent and we’re working very hard. We’re a close team on and off the court, we just need to put it together and I think confidence is a huge part of our game. This weekend helped with that — we just need to make sure everyone who is injured gets better.”
Part of the success of this season’s team is clearly coming from their physical fitness. The Athletic Department’s director of strength and conditioning, Jason Novak, and his assistants have been working with the Eli swingers to improve endurance, strength and coordination.
“He’s definitely helping us a lot,” Chris Lawler ’07 said. “It’s really paying off in our matches — that’s being shown.”
Five players cited the team’s conditioning as one of the greatest reasons for its success so far this season. Dorato noted that Novak’s inventive training style has been one of the most influential factors for the team.
“[Novak] has us doing lots of exercises that build not only strength but coordination,” Dorato said. “It’s his approach that makes what he does so unique — he doesn’t just have us doing bench press and curls but a lot of body balance. It’s not just that our players are fit but clearly other players from other teams are not as fit. There’s no doubt that we were in better shape than the other teams.”
The team’s conditioning regimen, in addition to its daily practice, includes lifting two days a week and sprints. But instead of pumping iron the players are using their own bodies to strengthen their muscles, incorporating variations of sit-ups and push-ups into their routine.
“We’re all stronger and we’re all faster,” Milosz Gudzowski ’06 said. “It’s really helped a lot.”
As the Elis embark upon what Dorato calls the toughest season they have ever played, they are confident in their ability to succeed like no team that preceded them has.
“I think if we play well we can beat any of those teams, and I think my players know it and believe it,” Dorato said. “I think that’s why they had such a good weekend — because they really think they’re the best team. They’ve worked for it and they believe it and now they’re out to prove it.”