Courtesy Yale Athletics
In one of the premier events of the fall season, both the Yale women’s and men’s tennis teams posted impressive showings at the USTA/ITA Regional Championships.
While the two teams competed at different venues, the women played at home at the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center and the men traveled to the University of Pennsylvania, berths to the National Indoor Championships were on the line at both tournaments. Yale found success in singles, with members from both teams reaching the Round of 16, but the highlights of the competition came on the doubles side, as two Yale teams made deep runs against some of the top players in the Northeast region.
“I’ve always loved regionals,” Alex Hagermoser ’17 said. “It’s kind of a good measure of where we are and where we need to go as we head into the spring.”
The women’s team put together a successful opening day in the main singles draw. At the end of competition, five of six competing Elis were still alive in the second round of the bracket, as Sherry Li ’17, Valerie Shklover ’18 and Elizabeth Zordani ’18 all won their first-round matchups in straight sets.
Li won a tightly contested 7–6, 7–6 battle against an opponent from Saint John’s University, and Shklover was similarly pushed to a 7–6 first set before cruising to a 6–0 second set in her win over Cornell’s Ananya Dua. Zordani, meanwhile, dropped just two games in a 6–0, 6–2 beatdown over Lehigh’s Sibel Can. Madison Battaglia ’20 and captain Tina Jiang ’17 received first-round byes to start the tournament.
“[The bye] was helpful because [I] had two doubles matches on Friday,” Battaglia said. “Not having to play singles that day was important.”
On the second day of the main-draw play, Battaglia and Li each won two matches to reach the Round of 16, improving on Yale’s lone representative in the same round last year. The freshman won her second match of the day by a 6–4, 7–5 score over Boston College’s Kylie Wilcox, while Li defeated another Eagle, Dasha Possokhova, 7–5, 6–3.
The remaining three Bulldogs failed to advance past the second round. Shklover was defeated in straight sets by Penn’s Sarah Dreyfuss while Zordani lost in a marathon 6–7 (9–7), 6–2, 7–5 contest to University of Buffalo’s Tanja Stojanovska. Jiang had to retire from her second-round match due to back pain after dropping the first set.
Battaglia and Li could not keep their momentum going in the ensuing Round of 16. Both lost in straight sets to top-seeded players, ending singles play for Yale on Sunday.
In the main doubles draw, the previously 4–1 team of Jiang and Zordani made a surprising exit in the first round as they fell 8–7 (7–5) to a duo from Boston University. However, Battaglia and Shklover, who had no previous tournament experience together, made an equally surprising run to the quarterfinals.
After an 8–5 first round win, the pair took down the No. 3 seed from Cornell in an 8–7 (7–3) duel, setting the two on their path to the quarterfinals. Ultimately, Battaglia and Shklover fell 8–3 on Sunday to Columbia’s Star Makarome and Alexandra Solovyev.
“We were very close,” Shklover said. “It was kind of frustrating because there were a lot of deuce points so that one point determined winning or losing a game, so the score wasn’t reflective of the match.”
The men’s team also enjoyed a successful tournament in what Hagermoser called the best regionals performance by the team in his four years at Yale.
Starting with singles qualifying, Andrew Heller ’20 was able to string together two wins on Thursday in Philadelphia to make it into the main draw. Hagermoser, the other Bulldog in the qualifying draw, fell one win short of joining his teammate.
The Bulldogs had a shaky first round in the main draw that saw the exit of veterans Fedor Andrienko ’18 and Stefan Doehler ’18. Andrienko dropped his match in two sets while Doehler fought to three sets before eventually falling 3–6, 6–3, 6–4. Still, Ryan Cheng ’20 and Heller impressed in victories that moved them to the second round, joining the three players who earned byes: Dylan King ’20, Tyler Lu ’17 and Ziqi Wang ’18.
Cheng and Heller were ousted in straight sets in the second round the following day, but King, Lu and Wang all advanced to the third round. Wang was the only one of the trio to fall in the Saturday action, as he dropped a two-set bout to Columbia’s William Matheson. Consistent with their high seeds, King and Lu advanced to the Round of 16 but fell just short of the quarterfinals.
King put up a valiant effort against the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed and reigning Ivy League Player of the Year, Columbia’s Shawn Hadavi, but fell 7–5, 6–2. Lu faced a similar fate when he lost in three sets to Cornell’s Colin Sinclair.
“I learned that at this level you really have to be locked in and focused for the entire match,” King said. “You can’t have any mental lapses because if you give your opponent any errors he will pounce and use those opportunities against you.”
Yale used three untested doubles teams at the regional tournament, with one pair producing a run to the semifinals. The duo of Andrienko and King took its first match 8–2 before losing in the second round by the same score to brothers Victor Pham and ITA No. 7 Richard Pham of Columbia. Similarly, Lu and Wang took their first match 8–7 before dropping the second to a team from the host school, Penn.
The newly formed team of Doehler and Hagermoser, however, hit its stride during the weekend and won four matches, three against seeded teams, to reach the semifinals. The Bulldogs bested the No. 2-seeded team from Cornell, 8–7, in what Hagermoser called one of the team’s best matches of the tournament.
Doehler and Hagermoser finally fell on Monday, losing in a tight two sets to the Pham brothers in the semifinals.
“It’s one of those things that makes me hopeful for this season,” Hagermoser said of his play with Doehler. “We never played together before a week ago, and in our first tournament we made it to the semifinals of a big event.”
Barring a potential appearance by the women’s team at the Big Green Invitational in Hanover on Nov. 4, the two Yale teams will break from competition until their indoor seasons begin in January.