Courtesy of Yale Athletics
Down 0–40 in the first game of their Saturday afternoon doubles match against St. John’s, the Yale men’s tennis pair of Alex Hagermoser ’17 and Fedor Andrienko ’18 teamed up to win four consecutive points and avoid going down a crucial break. For a Bulldog squad that has struggled with doubles play this spring, the veterans’ sequence came as a welcome sight and set the tone for a strong overall performance.
The Bulldogs (15–4, 1–0 Ivy) faced the Red Storm (8–13, 1–0 Big East) in a rematch of a consolation-round meeting from the 2017 ECAC indoor championship on Feb. 19. After sweeping St. John’s 4–0 in the teams’ first meeting, Yale reasserted its dominance on Saturday, rolling to a 4–1 victory on the New York team’s fast-paced home courts.
“We knew we were playing a relatively weaker team than the teams we’re going to play in the coming weeks, but that didn’t really affect the way that we approached the match,” Photos Photiades ’17 said. “I think that was important because St. John’s played pretty well, so if we didn’t fight and play well, the outcome might have been very different.”
Following their four-point comeback at No. 1 doubles, Hagermoser and Andrienko cruised to a 6–3 victory. Hagermoser’s big serve paired well with Andrienko’s consistent volleys to give the newly formed pair their first win of the spring season.
Though previously sidelined with a shoulder tear, Andrienko came out on Saturday with the poise of a polished veteran in replacing Stefan Doehler ’18. Though Hagermoser’s usual partner was left off the doubles lineup to avoid aggravating a tender back, Andrienko fit in seamlessly with his senior teammate, according to head coach Alex Dorato.
“[Fedor] was really impressive,” Dorato said. “He hasn’t played a match in the spring and even in the fall he was hurt. I thought [with] the pressure of the match, his nerves would get to him. But he was relaxed, he was having a lot of fun and he played very well.”
Even with the win at first doubles, a loss from the tandem of Dylan King ’20 and Ziqi Wang ’18 in the second slot left the Elis with more work to do early against St. John’s. King and Wang lost several critical 30–30 points throughout the match, ultimately falling short of their first win together in a disappointing 6–1 final.
The veteran duo of captain Tyler Lu ’17 and Photiades, however, clinched the doubles point at No. 3 with a 6–2 win. Lu and Photiades have now won four in a row at the final doubles spot.
The Elis continued their winning ways in singles, dominating most of their matches over their Red Storm counterparts. Yale captured straight-set victories in the No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 spots, while Lu’s and Wang’s matches at the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively, were called before completion. Andrew Heller ’20 turned in a notable performance in the No. 5 spot, dropping just three games to junior Federico Ruiz in his two-set victory.
“Away matches tend to be kind of tough, especially against a team that’s coming after you,” Heller said. “But I feel like I got off to a really good start … I was able to loosen up and swing through [the ball] more which allowed me to play more aggressively.”
Yale’s lone singles loss came at the sixth spot, as Dennis Wang ’19 lost 6–3, 6–2 to St. John’s Ognjen Trejgut, who according to Dorato played “unbelievably well.”
Although the Bulldogs pulled out a comprehensive victory, their match against St. John’s was not without difficulty. Playing on an opponent’s courts is always hard, and the Elis had to adjust to the Red Storm’s particularly speedy courts.
“Last time we played [St. John’s], it was the third match at ECACs, so we were used to the court speed and everything,” Hagermoser said. “But this was obviously on their courts, so it was a bit of a different feel for us.”
With two conference games next on the slate, Yale has its momentum trending in the right direction as it prepares to face Dartmouth and Harvard this weekend. As the stakes rise and the matches build up in importance, the experience of the Elis’ doubles lineup should help: six of Yale’s top seven available doubles players are either juniors or seniors.
Yale has yet to lose a match this season after winning the doubles point.