In one of the biggest competitions of the calendar year, the Yale men’s and women’s tennis teams will compete at the USTA/ITA Regional Championships with National Indoor Championships berth on the line.
Both Yale teams will compete in the Northeast region, with the men’s team traveling to Penn and the women’s team hosting regionals in New Haven. One of the most selective fall tournaments, regionals offer a limited number of slots to the top players on each team. Competing this year for the Bulldogs will be eight players from the men’s team and six players from the women’s team.
“It’s more of a process until we get to Ivy League play,” captain Tyler Lu ’17 said of the fall season. “If I go to regionals and I play good matches, compete well and I feel like my level is close to the other No. 1 players in the Ivy League, then I’ll consider that a success for myself.”
The entries from the men’s side are Lu, Fedor Andrienko ’18, Ryan Cheng ’20, Stefan Doehler ’18, Alex Hagermoser ’17, Andrew Heller ’20, Dylan King ’20 and Ziqi Wang ’18. All of these players will compete in singles, with six of the eight already in the main draw. Hagermoser and Heller will have to go through the qualifying round in order to join their teammates on the second day.
The Regional Championships will feature some of the top players in the Northeast, including many from fellow Ivy League teams. Still, Yale enters the singles draw with three seeded players.
Lu will be seeded sixth after sitting out last year with a wrist injury. Following him are freshman phenom King, who is seeded 16th after a great start to the season, and Wang, who is seeded 24th, an improvement from his 32nd seed last year.
“I was definitely a little bit surprised when I was seeded because it’s pretty tough to get seeded as a freshman” King said. “I think my [results at All-Americans] really helped me because in the end it’s all about exposure, and getting those wins under my belt really helped my case.”
With this strong singles front, Yale looks to make it deep into the main draw after disappointing singles results last year. In 2015, only Wang advanced to the third round of play after defeating Dartmouth’s Eddie Grabill on the second day.
After missing out the tournament last season, Lu said he was hoping for his first deep run at regionals.
“I feel like I can beat any of the top guys in [this region],” Lu said. “But I also need to make sure that I’m ready and if anyone has a good day I need to be prepared to fight them off.”
On the doubles side, three teams — Lu/Wang, Doehler/Hagermoser and Andrienko/King — will compete in the main draw.
Although Yale had success in doubles last year, with two pairings making it to the Round of 16, the Elis do not have any seeded doubles teams heading into this year’s tournament.
However, with three seeded singles players and two former first-team All-Ivy doubles players in Andrienko and Doehler, the Yale doubles pairs will have a chance at advancing far into the tournament.
For the women’s team, regionals will mark the second consecutive tournament at home after last weekend’s Bulldog Invitational. Competing at the Regional Championships will be Madison Battaglia ’20, Tina Jiang ’17, Sherry Li ’17, Valerie Shklover ’18, Amy Yang ’19 and Elizabeth Zordani ’18.
Only two of the women, Li and Shklover, will need to compete in qualifying rounds for singles. The remaining four entries will start in the main draw.
For doubles, the teams of Jiang/Zordani and Battaglia/Shklover have received placement into the main draw while Li and Yang must wait to get off the alternate list. As the second alternate doubles team, Li and Yang would need two teams to drop out of the tournament to earn entry into the doubles draw.
Battaglia is someone to watch out for at regionals, as she was the only member of the team to compete at All-Americans two weeks ago. Although that match was her first college tennis experience of the year, Battaglia was able to win against tough competition in qualifying. She will look to find more success while juggling both singles and doubles this weekend.
“I actually played a lot of doubles in juniors and we do a lot of doubles practice so I feel prepared,” Battaglia said. “I hope to do the best that I can, but I don’t think too much into the results.”
Head coach Danielle McNamara has emphasized focusing on play rather than results over the course of the early season, and the advice seems to be striking a chord with her players.
First-time regionals competitor Zordani has adopted McNamara’s philosophy. With a new role as one of the team’s key contributors, she hopes to end her fall season on a high note.
“This year has been pretty exciting for me,” Zordani said. “I didn’t really play in the lineup last year and I didn’t even play at regionals, but I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself this tournament.”
Zordani will look to continue her solid start to the season as she plays in the main singles draw and then in the doubles draw alongside Jiang. The pair will try to build off of their 4–1 early season record at regionals.
The qualifying rounds begin of the USTA/ITA Regional Championships begin on Oct. 20 for both the men and women.