The Yale men’s tennis team finished its conference season on Saturday with its closest match of the Ivy League season. But not even the Bulldogs’ best could keep the team from the disappointment of its first 0–7 Ivy League finish in 14 years.
Facing Brown (9–18, 1–6 Ivy) in Providence, the Elis (12–13, 0–7) fell behind early, and despite splitting singles matches with the Bears could not rebound to earn the win. The 4–3 defeat marked Yale’s eighth consecutive loss and put the final stamp on the worst conference season in recent memory for the Bulldogs, who have now won just three conference matches in as many seasons.
“Brown is a good team and similar to us, so we were expecting an even match,” Photos Photiades ’17 said. “[Yale] showed great character, great determination and fighting spirit, but in the end it was really disappointing to lose in such a close manner.”
The Elis’ 2016 season was made difficult early on when Tyler Lu ’17, the team’s previous No. 1 singles player, went out for the year with an injury. Though the Elis proceeded to see some success during the regular season — including one seven-match winning streak against nonconference opponents — the winless conference campaign was perhaps more memorable.
Lu, a first-team All-Ivy selection in both his freshman and sophomore seasons, expressed a positive outlook for the team upon his return next year.
“I would have much preferred to be out on the court playing, but my time spent as a player-coach was pretty rewarding, too,” Lu said. “I thought that numerous members of the team competed very well throughout the season and, with a good class of players coming in next year, I’m really looking forward to next season.”
Yale began competition Saturday against Brown with a narrow loss in the doubles matches. Though Martin Svenning ’16 and Photiades earned a lopsided 6–2 win in the No. 2 match to start the afternoon, the Bears had the last laugh, winning 6–3 over Yale’s top duo of Fedor Andrienko ’18 and Stefan Doehler ’18 before clinching the point with a 7–5 nail-biter over captain Jason Brown ’16 and Alex Hagermoser ’17. After winning four out of seven doubles points in last year’s conference season, the Bulldogs dropped all of them in 2016.
The struggles continued early on for the Bulldogs in the singles matches, with Brown seizing the first set in five of six matchups. Photiades was the lone first-set winner for Yale, taking the opening set 7–5 from Brown’s Charles Tan in the No. 6 singles spot.
Ziqi Wang ’18 and Svenning both found themselves on the losing end of sweeps in the No. 1 and No. 4 singles matches, falling 6–1, 6–4 and 6–3, 6–2, respectively. Playing in the top spot in place of Lu for the entire Ivy season, Wang finished with a 1–5 record, the lone win coming against Harvard’s Nicky Hu.
Despite facing a 3–0 match deficit following the pair of losses, the Bulldogs nevertheless refused to go down without a fight. Andrienko and Hagermoser, playing in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, both rallied back from first-set losses to upend the Bears, winning 4–6, 7–6, 6–4 and 3–6, 6–3, 6–4 to close the gap against Brown to one match.
Needing wins on both remaining courts to notch the win, the Elis came up short, with Brown sophomore Aaron Sandberg sweeping Doehler 6–3, 7-–6 to clinch the match for the Bears. With Brown already beginning to celebrate its first win of the conference season, Photiades won his match in a super tiebreaker, 7–5, 4–6, 1–0, to earn a third point for Yale.
“It was a tough match, and the guys fought well and made a valiant comeback,” Brown said.
The loss to Brown this past weekend punctuates the Bulldogs’ fifth losing conference season in the past six years. Though head coach Alex Dorato has accumulated the most wins in program history, with 294, the Bulldogs have last won an Ivy League Championship in 1993, with Dorato as the interim head coach.
Princeton, which last won a championship in 1988, has the longest title drought in Ivy League men’s tennis.
Daniela Brighenti contributed reporting