A player coming into a tournament as the No. 1 seed can sometimes falter under the pressure to perform as the favorite. But Brandon Wai ’07 was unfazed, emerging victorious over 127 other singles players to live up to his hype.
The ITA Northeastern tournament, which took place at Dartmouth College, began last Friday and culminated with national-No. 51 Wai’s victory in the finals on Tuesday. His performance earned him a bid to the National Indoor Championships, which will be held Nov. 3-6 in Columbus, Ohio. The rest of the Elis had strong tournaments as well, finishing their fall season on a high note.
“I was pretty thrilled,” Wai said. “Through every round I played better, and in the finals, I played my best.”
The last day of the tournament began with Wai beating Jason Pinsky of UPenn, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, in the semi-finals. Wai advanced to the finals to play No. 38 Mark Barry of Penn State, and despite being a slight underdog going into the match, Wai proved his superiority by beating him in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1. The victory marked the second time this month that Wai defeated Barry, with the other win coming in the ECAC Invitational Oct. 1.
Wai’s teammates and coach spoke glowingly of his performance during the five-day tournament, citing it as one of the season’s highlights.
“Brandon played like a true American hero throughout the whole tournament.” Josh Lederman ’09 said.
The rest of the team echoed Wai with impressive performances. Milosz Gudzowski ’06 advanced to the round of 16 before being knocked out of the tournament, and two other Bulldogs, Rowan Reynolds ’06 and Mike Caldwell ’09, made it to the round of 32 before being defeated.
Yale head coach Alex Dorato was very proud of his team’s outstanding play. He said no other school had four players make it to the round of 32.
The team members were similarly content about their performances, highlighting their consistency, crisp volleys and strong forehands.
“This was the first time the entire fall where I actually felt comfortable on the court and had a good understanding of what I needed to do to compete and win,” said Reynolds in an e-mail.
Wai also found success in doubles. He and Lederman, the No. 10-seeded team, upset the No. 1 seeds Josh Raff and Nick Brunner of Cornell, 8-3, to advance to the semi-finals. Unfortunately, they were defeated by the No. 4 team of Dan Hanegby and Phil Charm of Brown, 8-5, one step shy of the finals.
The impressive tournament this weekend caps a successful fall season. Dorato said he has been very pleased by strong performances from freshmen, including Lederman and Caldwell.
“The freshmen are doing excellently,” he said. “They’ve added significantly to our depth.”
Dorato hopes to continue the intensity when play recommences in January. When asked about the team’s goals for the next season, he spoke of trying to make the NCAA tournament by either winning the Ivy League or being one of the top 50 teams in the country.
Meanwhile, Wai has some goals of his own to accomplish first. The National Indoor Championship starts in one week.
“I play my best tennis when I’m relaxed,” Wai said. “That’s what I did in the finals and that’s what I have to do next week to win.”