Three members of the Yale men’s and women’s tennis teams traveled west this week for the ITA All-American Championships. The Bulldogs had their feet held close to the fire in one of the most prestigious events for collegiate tennis players, rivaled only by the National Indoor Championship and the NCAA Championship.
The tournament pitted Dylan King ’20, Ziqi Wang ’18 and Mimi Levine ’21 against the nation’s best tennis players. Although all three Bulldogs lost their first-round matches, the tournament provided them with valuable experience against stout competition. On the women’s side, Levine said the week showed she could compete against the best of college tennis.
King and Wang entered the men’s tournament, hosted by the University of Tulsa, riding momentum from strong performances at the Penn Invitational and Ivy Plus. Playing doubles together at Ivy Plus, the pair won a consolation draw at the Princeton site.
In his match against UCLA’s Maxime Cressy, King took the first set but ultimately fell 4–6, 6–3, 6–0. King fared better in his second match, winning the first set in the consolation round against USC’s Thibault Forget, but did not have the opportunity to finish off Forget, as the match was cancelled due to inclement weather. King said the tournament yielded “mixed results, but definitely lots of good competition.”
Wang encountered a similar fate to King’s, losing his first match in three sets against Arizona State’s Benjamin Hannestad despite winning the first. The senior was unable to avenge his first-round performance as his consolation match was also rained out.
The women’s draw was held at Levine’s home club, Riviera Tennis Club in Pacific Palisades, California. Although the Santa Monica native traveled across the country to come to Yale, her collegiate debut came back in the friendly confines of her home court. Levine received a wild card bid to the prestigious tournament despite having never played a collegiate match. Both Levine and women’s tennis head coach Danielle McNamara said very few first years get the opportunity to face such good competition early in their rookie seasons.
Levine, who also excels in doubles, held her own against some of the top-ranked players in her first-ever collegiate tournament. On Tuesday, she played her first qualifying match against Marianna Petrei, the No. 1 singles player at the University of Idaho. Levine dropped the first set 3–6, but managed to surge and win the second set 6–3. Although Levine put up a good fight, she lost the last set 6–1 and ultimately dropped the match.
“The first game, I was really in there every point, competing really hard, which definitely gave me confidence for the second [game],” Levine said.
Levine would have better luck in her consolation match later that day. Squaring off against Boston College’s Asiya Dair, she again dropped the first set 6–3, but managed to pull off a thrilling upset in the second set, coming back to win 7–6. Levine was down 6–3 in the tiebreaker, but won three straight points and came back to pull it out at 9–7. Newly energized, Levine cruised to victory against the sixth-best player in Yale’s region, winning the final set 6–0 and capping off her first official win as a Bulldog.
On Wednesday, Levine faced off against Ohio State’s Anna Sanford. Although she lost 6–2, 4–6, 6–0, Levine was happy with her performance against the No. 33-ranked player on the collegiate circuit. Since Ohio State is such a tough team, Levine said, pulling out a set was itself a tremendous accomplishment.
“[Levine’s] really experienced, having played in high-level junior tournaments all over the world,” said McNamara. “She knows how to handle tough situations and she competes hard.”
In a tournament held quite early in the tennis season, McNamara attributed Levine’s preparedness to the work she put in over the summer. Levine played in a lot of tournaments this summer to prepare for her Bulldog debut, she noted, and continued to train hard once practice started in September.
“I think her game style will translate well to college,” McNamara said. “She is an all-court player and can do a lot of different things.”
The Bulldogs qualified two men and one woman to the ITA All-American Championships last year.
Will Horvath | firstname.lastname@example.org
Conor Johnson | email@example.com