Men’s tennis wins two matches over weekend

by Alexander Agadjanian | 4/19/15 6:05pm

04.20.2015.sports.Mens-Tennis2_Weija-Tang
The men’s tennis team has won its last four matches, all against Ivy opponents.
Source: Weijia Tang/The Dartmouth Staff

On the heels of two consecutive conference victories last weekend, the 47th-ranked men’s tennis team was looking to extend its win streak this past weekend as the Ivy League season winds down. After victories against unranked Brown University (15-7, 1-5 Ivy) by a score of 4-3 and against Yale University (11-11, 1-5 Ivy) at 5-2, the Big Green (13-10, 4-2) now enters its final home match on a four-win surge and a chance to end the season in second place in the Ivy League.

On Friday afternoon, the team played the final leg of a three-game intra-conference road trip and its final away game of the season in Providence, Rhode Island, facing the Brown Bears. As was done in last weekend’s slate of games, head coach Chris Drake elected to break up his 26th-ranked doubles team of Chris Kipouras ’15 and Dovydas Sakinis ’16. Kipouras was paired with Max Schmidt ’17 in the No. 2 match and Sakinis with Brendan Tannenbaum ’16 for the No. 1 match, an effort to help the team possess more even strength across all three courts in doubles action.

The decision, however, would not reap the same dividends it did against the University of Pennsylvania last Sunday, where both pairs won to claim the point for the Big Green. The No. 1 doubles match was the first to conclude, as Brown’s pair of Justin To and Brandon Yeoh maintained a lead for much of the match and won 6-2 against Sakinis and Tannenbaum. After jumping out to a 2-0 advantage and controlling the match early, Kipouras and Schmidt dropped five straight games to lose 6-3 as Brown clinched the doubles point.Entering the six singles matches trailing their opponents by a point has been a familiar sight and challenge for the Big Green this year. In six out of the seven previous matches, the team has been forced to play from behind.

Due to Brown’s home site only containing four tennis courts, the No. 1 through 4 matches were the first singles played on Friday — not all six simultaneously as is custom. In both the No. 1 and No. 2 contests, the Big Green leapt out to quick leads as 52nd-ranked Sakinis and Kipouras won their first sets 6-3 and 6-2, respectively. After Diego Pedraza ’17 fell in his first set in the No. 4 match, Ciro Riccardi ’18 managed to recapture some positive momentum for the team by climbing out of a 4-1 hole to take his No. 3 first set 7-6 on a tiebreaker.

The tide moved further in the Big Green’s direction with the ensuing set results. Kipouras notched the first singles point of the afternoon, cruising to a 6-3 triumph in the second set of his No. 2 match. In doing so, the senior extended his stellar streak of consecutive sets won to eight and consecutive singles matches won to four, dating back to three team matches ago.

“[Kipouras] is tough, he’s experienced and a tough competitor,” Drake said. “He’s worked hard to get in really good shape, so that’s helped him with his confidence. He played another good solid match, he got a point on the board for us right away to even the score one-one.”

Not long after, Riccardi continued his dominance to secure the second set 6-1, evening the battle at two wins for each side.As the No. 5 and 6 singles matches opened up, Brown returned with a strong response to the first deficit it saw on the day, placing the Big Green in a 3-2 hole and on the edge of defeat. Brown’s Peter Tarwid defeated Pedraza in straight sets 6-3, 7-6, and after grabbing the first set in the No. 1 match, Sakinis faltered in the subsequent two, losing them 7-6 and 6-2. Having once been on the brink of seizing the match in the second set, Sakinis instead endured his first single match loss during Ivy League play.

So the contest came down to the No. 5 and 6 singles matches, with the Big Green needing victories in both for the overall match win. The team took a sizable step forward in this effort through the performance of George Wall ’17, who fought through a close contest to win 6-4, 7-5 in the No. 5 to level the overall score at three.With all eyes on the decisive No. 6 singles match, Schmidt, after losing 6-3 in his first set, stormed back in the second set to win 6-3 and even the set count. In a back-and-forth final third set where Schmidt and Jack Haworth both held their serves in each of the first twelve games, Schmidt finally prevailed on a 7-6 tiebreaker, winning his singles match and clinching a 4-3 team match victory for Dartmouth.

“The first set didn’t go too well, the second set went very well and during the third set, it was really just a battle of wills,” Schmidt said. “My opponent played very well, he didn’t really give me any free points, and he really made me work for every point and every game that I got. It really came down to the wire at the end.”

With the final margin of the came depending on the No. 6 outcome, all eyes had turned to their court. The situation, Schmidt said, was the first of its kind for him on the team.

“That’s really the first time I’ve been on the court by myself with everybody watching to clinch the match,” he said.

Two days later, the Big Green made the trek back home for a Sunday afternoon contest against the Yale Bulldogs, who were coming off of a 5-2 loss to Harvard University. In what has now become a match-to-match obstacle that the team must overcome, the men once again lost the doubles point and put itself in an early hole. After the No. 3 team of Wall and Tannenbaum, playing for the first time together, cruised to a 6-0 win on court 3, the No. 1 and 2 pairs fell 6-1 and 6-4, respectively, yielding the first point of the afternoon to Yale.Just as common as the pattern of dropping the doubles point has been, though, so too has the resurgent effort in response by the Big Green. Kipouras, spearheading his team’s singles action charge once more, gained the team’s first point. Winning his first set 6-3, the senior then easily blanked Bulldog freshman Stefan Doehler 6-0 in the second set to grab the No. 2 match victory. The result marked the fifth consecutive singles match win for Kipouras in his second to last match in a Big Green uniform.

On all six courts, the team saw excellent performances in the first sets of singles matches, with its players taking five of the first six sets. The onslaught continued thereafter. Building an early advantage and winning his first No. 5 singles set 6-2, Wall fought through his second to win 6-3 and take the match in straight sets.Following closely behind, Sakinis rebounded from his first Ivy League singles match loss from Friday to boost the Big Green’s overall match lead to 3-1. The junior maintained a comfortable three-game lead throughout his first set to win 6-2, and after a much closer second set, defeated Yale’s Tyler Lu 6-4 to notch the No. 1 match victory.

Only needing one more single match win to close out the weekend on a strong note, Dartmouth got two nearly simultaneous positive results from the No. 3 and No. 4 matches. In the No. 4 singles match, Pedraza broke his opponent’s serve to secure a close first set 7-5. Finishing closely after, Riccardi fought off Bulldog Ziqi Wang in a neck-and-neck No. 3 first set to grab a 7-6 tiebreaker win. Both Pedraza and Riccardi proceeded to work up leads and clinch their second sets 6-4, pushing the men well past the necessary four points for the win over Yale.

Schmidt, who lost his first set 6-4 but won his second 6-3, faltered in the final set 6-1 to round out a 5-2 team match victory for the Big Green.

The rhythm of the match, putting the Big Green at an early disadvantage during doubles that they needed to fight to overcome, has become familiar. Drake, however, said that the team has proven they can come back in moments like that.

With this weekend out of the way, the men’s team only has one match left in the season. Next weekend, they’ll take on Harvard — ranked shortly ahead of the Big Green at second among the Ivies. Now on a four-game winning streak, Pedraza said he feels good about the team’s chances against the Crimson.

“We had a very tough and emotional victory against Brown on Friday, and to be able to back that effort up with a good performance today, I think that is key,” he said. “Four victories now in a row against good conference rivals, that’s what we wanted, and I think we’re in good shape headed for the final weekend against Harvard.”