The men’s tennis team ended its week early to head to Cambridge, Mass. for a three-day Fall Invitational at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The draws were stacked with NESCAC stars, building a 64-player singles bracket and a 32-team doubles bracket. Match play started on Friday with only 12 outdoor courts and 4 indoor courts in the J.B. Carr Bubble. With 96 matches to be played in the first round, the Cards were in for a long couple of days.
In the first round, captain Cam Daniels ’18 met the No. 3 seed Brian Grodecki of Williams and fell 2-6, 4-6. Other captain and No. 9 seed Mike Liu ’17 cruised past opponent Ethan Chen of Tufts 6-3, 6-0. Liu then dropped straight sets to Amherst’s Gabe Owens 4-6, 4-6 in the second round. Joachim Samson ’19 defeated Sean Ko of MIT in a sweet three-set comeback, winning 2-6, 6-4, 6-3. Samson then lost second round to Brian Granoff of Brandeis University 5-7, 4-6.
Steven Chen ’18 breezed through his first round match against Middlebury’s Alex Vanezis with a 6-3, 6-3 win. In the second round, No. 6 seed Chen pulled through a first set deficit against Jackson Kogan of Brandeis, coming back to win 4-6, 6-2, 6-1. Third round, Chen faced No. 9 seed Tyler Barr of MIT for the battle of the bracket. The first set went to a tie breaker, which Chen lost 6-7 (2). Mustering up all the energy he had, Chen rallied back to win the second set, also in a tiebreaker 7-6 (3). With the match tied as closely as it could be, Chen switched into high gear to pull out the third set 6-4 to advance to the quarterfinals after a match that lasted 3 hours and 43 minutes. Forced to play just an hour later, Chen was rolled in a straight set drubbing.
Princeton Carter ’20 continued the three-set trend, moving on to the second round after defeating Middlebury’s Hamid Derbani 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. Carter then lost second round to Amherst’s Nathan Kaplan 1-6, 1-6. As if there hadn’t been enough three-set thrillers, Jake Roberts ’17 couldn’t resist joining the club and battled past David Aizenberg of Brandeis 6-2, 2-6, 6-3, in the first round. Roberts then fell in the next round to the No. 7 seed Oscar Burney of Amherst by a score of 2-6, 4-6.
Tiago Eusebio ’18 matched up against No. 9 seed Zach Bessette of Amherst, falling 4-6, 6-1, 2-6 and making it the sixth third-setter for the Cards on Friday. Wes wasn’t done yet, as Jonathan Holtzman ’20 added to the drama with a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 first-round win against Jon Heidenberg of Amherst, officially tallying up seven three-set matches in the first day. With a bit of momentum, Holtzman beat No. 9 seed Ryan Bunis of Brandeis 6-3, 6-2. The Wesleyan rookie then met the No. 2 seed in his third round match, and made sure to give Amherst’s Josh Marchalik more than he bargained for with a now familiar Cardinal three-setter. Holtzman dropped the first set 4-6, only to fire back with a decisive 6-1 win in the second set. However, the No. 2 seed pulled through and won the final set 6-3.
In the consolation bracket, Daniels was back for some revenge after his first-round loss and swept through every opponent to win the bracket. Daniels commented on his big win and the team’s experience at the tournament.
“I guess for myself individually, it felt good just to get on the singles court for the first time this fall,” he said. “It was good to get some experience against some really good players so I’m pretty happy with the result. I think the team as a whole felt a little more comfortable…playing at MIT with a tournament under our belt. We were kind of disappointed with the ITAs [Intercollegiate Tennis Association] result and I think it was a good wake-up call and it showed in the practices after ITAs. So we just want to build off of that in the off-season and kind of keep that same intensity going into the winter because we still have some things to work on.”
The singles bracket proved both physically and emotionally exhausting for the Cards, but they were still hungry for some wins in the doubles. Cameron Hicks ’17 and Carter paired up against the No. 1 seed Derbani and Kyle Schlanger of Middlebury, falling 4-8 first round. Greg Lyon ’17 and Win Smith ’19 took the No. 5 seed and beat Granoff and Jeff Cherkin first round 8-5. Lyon and Smith then fell to Williams’ duo Jordan Sadowsky and Rohan Shastri 5-8. Samson and Chen defeated the other No. 5 seed from Tufts, Rohan Gupte and Nathan Niemiec, first round with a 8-4 win. The pair then breezed past Michael Arguello and Bunis of Brandeis 8-5 in the second round, but then fell to Williams’ Grodecki and Alex Taylor 3-8. Seniors Roberts and Liu paired up for their first time since the fall of their rookie year, and sparks flew. The duo cruised past MIT team Tyler Barr and Albert Go with a 8-3 win, then flew past Middlebury’s William De Quant and Weston Brach 8-2. Middlebury’s Allen Jackson and Aleksandr Samets defaulted in the third round, sending Liu and Roberts to the semis. There they met the No. 1 seed Derbani and Schlanger for the upset of the draw, winning 8-4. In the finals, Liu and Roberts faced the No. 2 seed Grodecki and Taylor of Williams and captured the doubles title with a decisive 8-4 win.
“This weekend was great, both personally and for Wesleyan tennis as a whole,” Hicks said. “On a personal level, my doubles partner Princeton and I played some dominant, aggressive tennis, and beat solid Williams and Tufts doubles teams, losing in a very close match (we were two points away from winning) to one of the best doubles teams the country has to offer right now. So, if we didn’t already before, we know that we can take out anybody on any given day. Cam Daniels won the back-draw singles and Mike and Jake won the doubles main draw, so the team is looking stronger than ever. I think that this weekend gave us an opportunity to improve on our performance at ITAs and got us excited to keep training hard for the spring.”
The Cards will now go into a long and productive offseason before they compete again in March. Liu has high hopes coming off this past weekend.
“I’m proud that we continued to develop as competitors over the course of the tournament,” Liu said. “And I look forward to seeing how much we can improve during the offseason.”