Coming off a bye week, the Yale men’s tennis team traveled to Hanover, New Hampshire, well-rested and looking to continue an impressive start to the season.
After the last weekend of competition in which players were split between two different tournaments, the entire team attended the Dartmouth Invitational, featuring a small field against which the Elis went 19–19. Amherst, Binghamton, Brown and Yale joined host Dartmouth in five singles draws and three doubles draws that allowed for every traveling Bulldog to play in at least two matches.
“There’s a lot of great talent on this team, not to mention the freshman who are off to a great start,” Alex Hagermoser ’17 said of the team’s first months of play. “We just have to work on putting everything together and ironing out the small stuff. For the first time in a couple years, we have all the pieces to compete for an Ivy Championship.”
Consistent with their early season results, the Elis got out of the gate quickly on Friday, compiling a 7–3 record. The first day of the tournament consisted solely of singles, as every player completed the first round of his draw.
Both Stefan Doehler ’18 and Ziqi Wang ’18 cruised to very straightforward wins at 6–0, 6–1 and 6–3, 6–0, respectively. The veterans set the tone for the rest of the team which followed suit. Only one of the seven Bulldog wins on Friday required three sets, but Photos Photiades ’17 was able to come out on top in a comeback victory 1–6, 6–2, 6–4, leaving Yale alive in four of five singles draws.
“This weekend we were without Tyler Lu ’17, our captain, so [as a senior] I had more responsibility off the court,” said Photiades. “But on the court that doesn’t come into my mind. The best way to help my team is to win on the court so I focus on that.”
Lu was missing from the lineup, sitting out the weekend after competing at the All-American Championships earlier in the week.
The three opening day losses came from Charlie Adams ’19, Fedor Andrienko ’18 and Andrew Heller ’20, but they each bounced back with wins on Saturday.
Still, the second day of play did not bear the same results as the first day, as the Bulldogs drew second-round matches against higher-level competition. The Elis struggled on the singles side as Yale dropped six of nine matches. Heller and Ziqi Wang dropped three setters as they lost in their main draw singles matches alongside four other teammates.
However, Ryan Cheng ’20 and Dennis Wang ’19 impressed as the two moved on to the finals of their draws. Andrienko also scored a 6–3, 6–4 win over an Amherst opponent in his consolation round.
The doubles side saw more favorable results as the quarterfinals and semifinals rounds played out in two of three doubles draws. The remaining draw played out round robin matches amongst four doubles teams.
The experienced team of Doehler and Ziqi Wang won two matches en route to a finals berth while the freshman duo of Cheng and Heller, which won a Connecticut State Championship draw two weeks ago, made it to the semifinals before falling to Amherst.
In round-robin play, Nathan Brown ’19 and Dennis Wang defeated the Amherst duo of Chris Paradis and Sam Silver, 8–3, to bring the Saturday double’s win total to five.
On the final day of the Dartmouth Invitational, the Bulldogs underwhelmed, playing to records below 0.500 in both singles and doubles. All three finals involving Yale players went to the opposing side. Cheng and Dennis Wang lost in their respective singles finals while Doehler and Ziqi Wang dropped a close 8–7 (7–5) set to the draw winners from Dartmouth.
The last day also came with a lot of drama as a trio of three set matches ended the tournament on a competitive note. Andrienko dropped his three setter 5–7, 6–3, 13–11, playing beyond the normal 10-point minimum in the tiebreaker to decide his match. Likewise, Photiades played a decisive tiebreaker to 12-–10, emerging victorious after he traded the first two sets 6–3, 3–6. Not to be outdone, Heller came back from dropping a 1–6 first set as he went on to win the second set 6–4 and the all-important tiebreaker 10–8.
According to Cheng, the tournament’s finish showed the depth of the Yale roster.
“No one’s guaranteed a spot in our lineup,” Cheng said. “There are a lot of talented players and if you let up for a week or two, or if you don’t practice hard or train hard, there’s no reason you should be in the lineup.”
Another notable absence from the Invitational was Dylan King ’20, who joined Lu at the All-American Championships where he won five matches before losing in the qualifying draw.