Both the Harvard men’s and women’s tennis teams saw action this past week at the ITA Northeast Regionals, and both squads had impressive finishes to the tournament. Fellow Ivy League school Princeton hosted the men’s tournament, which welcomed players from schools all around the Northeast, while Yale hosted the women’s side. Both tournaments ran from Oct. 11-16.
The men’s team sent six players down to the Lenz Tennis Center in Princeton, N.J., to compete, including captain Andy Zhou, junior Robert Wrzesinski, and freshman Brian Shi, who all earned seeded spots in the single’s draw. The rookie Shi played a hard fought match against Princeton, ultimately falling to his opponent 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the second round. Wrzesinski was unable to play his second round match, awarding the win to Sid Chari from Dartmouth in a walkover.
On the doubles side of the bracket, the Crimson was represented by three duos. Captain Christopher Morrow and Wrzesinski formed one pairing and, along with the team of junior Logan Weber and Shi, were seeded in the main draw of the tournament. In addition, Zhou and freshman Steven Sun competed as a twosome after achieving a 2-0 record at the 2018 Chowder Fest.
Zhou and Sun got off to a hot start, beating Wagner in the first round 8-2 and followed up with another strong victory, defeating Monmouth 8-3. Their luck ran out in the third round, however, falling 8-3 to Dartmouth. Shi and Weber, who were awarded a first round bye, were also able to reach the Round of 16.
Morrow and Wrzesinski found the most success of Harvard’s double’s teams, defeating Fordham in the first round 8-2 and then Penn in a close 8-6 match. They followed that up with an easy 8-1 win over St. John’s, but came up short against Columbia 8-4 in the quarterfinal round.
The star of the weekend for the Crimson was Zhou, who was able to replicate his impressive showing last year at the ITA Regionals and reach the semifinal round for the second year in a row. After a first round bye, Zhou encountered some trouble in his first match against Brown.
“I was really struggling and there were tough conditions outside, the weather was cold and windy, and it was pretty difficult to get over that initial hump to get back into a match play situation,” Zhou said. “It was difficult because I wasn’t in the right mindset.”
The Palo Alto, Calif. native was able to pull out the victory after the initial adversity, winning 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(4). Zhou thought that the win was a boost for rest of the tournament. He was able to follow that victory up with three more easy wins before falling to eventual champion David Volfson of Cornell.
“I was glad I was able to battle through that and come out with a win,” Zhou said. “I think things got a lot easier for me after that.”
Moving north to the courts at Yale, Harvard women’s tennis had five players competing, with four in the single’s bracket and one double’s team.
Junior Natasha Gonzalez and sophomore Anna Li joined up to compete as a double’s duo, and found an easy 8-1 win against LIU in the first round before falling to Brown 8-5.
The four single’s competitors all had a strong showing for the Crimson, with each reaching the second round of competition. Gonzalez again fell in the second round, this time 6-3, 6-2 to Syracuse. Freshman Rachel Lim, who earned a bye in the first round, had an impressive outing in her first time at the regionals. The rookie picked up a 6-1, 6-2 win in the second round, then defeated Penn 6-4, 6-3 before falling in the Round of 16 to Syracuse.
Junior Irene Lu was able to reach the third round after a first round bye and a three-set win victory over Brown, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1. In her next match against Columbia she did not fare as well and lost in straight sets 6-2, 6-2.
The last player standing for Harvard was junior Jenna Friedel, who put on a show just as impressive as Zhou did for the men’s squad. Her appearance in the semifinals was a marked improvement over last year’s tournament, where she lost in the second round. Friedel cited the team’s supportiveness as the key to her success this last week.
“It was my first time traveling with the new assistant coach, Coach Mason [Astley], which was an awesome experience,” Friedel said. “It was really great to have my team behind me, supporting me from campus.”
After a first round bye and a routine 6-3, 6-3 win over Buffalo, her third round match did not start as smoothly. After losing the first set 0-6, she said it was her teammates once again who helped her push through.
“It was a night match and I was the last match on that day so all of my teammates came out to support me,” Friedel said. “I managed to come back in the second and third sets and ended up winning that match...so that was a really good experience having them all behind me.”
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