The men’s tennis team was unstoppable this past weekend at the Fairfield Invitational, going undefeated in 20 doubles matches played by five different doubles teams.
“I guess it really couldn’t have gone too much better,” Head Coach Mike Fried said. “We didn’t really go into it with too much. We try actually to not go into tournaments or matches with too much of an expectation one way or the other, but just to go out and focus on the individual points at hand. It is certainly gratifying to have that dominant of a result though.”
Captain Sam Rudovsky ’16 and Jake Roberts ’17 held down the top doubles spot for the Cardinals, going 24-11 in their four matches against the top two doubles teams from Fairfield University and Hartford University. Newcomers Win Smith ’18 and Dhruv Yadav ’18 took on the second doubles spot and cruised to four wins in their first collegiate tennis outing, going 25-14.
“We work a lot on staying in the moment and playing ‘one point at a time’ tennis,” Fried said. “On the doubles court we work hard on taking advantage of the nature of doubles, which allows you to communicate between every single point with your partner and stay positive and focused.”
Steven Chen ‘18 and Greg Lyon ’17, Michael Liu ’17 and Cameron Daniels ’18, and Stephen Monk ’15 and Cameron Hicks ’17 rounded out Wesleyan’s final three doubles teams.
“We were definitely more confident than last year,” Lyon said. “We knew we had a good freshmen core coming in, so that was huge.”
Returning every player from last year’s team has allowed the Cardinals to grow closer together as a team this season. Even though the Cards left early Saturday morning for the 9 a.m. first serve in Fairfield, almost an hour from Middletown, Hicks said that everybody on the team showed up early for the van ride.
“We were much more vocal than the other two teams,” Hicks said. “We were definitely the loudest people on the courts, which is something we started to do as a team toward the end of last season, but we have a sense of unity on the team this year that I think everyone can feel. There’s a much smaller gap between the skills of the best player to the bottom spot.”
Hicks, Liu, and Lyon agreed that Wesleyan’s camaraderie carried their team on Saturday, noting that each time an opposing team began to cheer on Saturday, the Cardinals countered with at least three players yelling from the sidelines, “Let’s go, Wes!”
“The chemistry is way more collaborative this year,” Liu said. “Before it was super competitive because everyone was fighting for ladder spots, but now it’s competitive in a good way, like trying to push your teammate to be better.”
The tournament marked an important stepping-stone for the program, which was plagued last year by lackluster results from their doubles teams. While Wesleyan had a largely successful season a year ago, finishing 9-6, the doubles teams went 21-23.
“We’re definitely looking for [doubles] to be a strong point this year,” Liu said. “That’s the only thing we’ve been practicing so far this year in preparation for this tournament. The drills are different for doubles, and you can feel it. There are a lot of volleying drills, but the mindset behind doubles is also different from singles. In singles, some people have a ‘wait it out’ mentality and be more fit than the other guy, but in doubles you just have to go after it.”
The Cardinals compete in tournament play again in the ITA regional championships, an invitational tournament hosted by Middlebury with a limited number of spots for players from each NESCAC team. The tournament is not formatted by team, but rather by individual players and doubles groups. It is the only time this fall that Wesleyan tennis players will see fellow NESCAC players in competition.
“Because it’s by invitation, it has every NESCAC team and only the best players,” Fried said. “It’s really the biggest tournament of the fall.”