After a one and a half year hiatus from all collegiate tennis competitions, the Crimson men’s tennis team came back with a vengeance this past weekend at the Milwaukee Tennis Classic, where the team sent four of its top members to compete. Harvard capped off an incredibly strong showing at the tournament with sophomore Henry von der Schulenburg taking home the individual title in the singles bracket.
“We were all really happy to be out there and we’re all grateful to be able to travel during COVID, and I think not every team has been able to do that,” said von der Schulenburg. “And you practice so much during COVID and couldn’t play in tournaments, and this is exactly what you do it for. I think we’re all really happy with the result.”
The sophomore played a whopping nine matches over the course of the weekend from Saturday through Monday afternoon, winning eight of nine. Von Der Schulenburg secured victories in straight sets throughout the tournament in singles competitions, capping off his performance in the final with a 6-3, 6-2 win over nationally-ranked Lodewijk Weststrate of Southern California. In doubles, von der Schulenburg partnered with junior Harry Walker to earn a second place finish after falling in the final to a duo from Pepperdine, 6-2.
After the match, the sophomore felt a huge sense of relief and pride in knowing that so much of the work he had put in over the pandemic, while living in Switzerland away from the rest of the team, was finally starting to pay off.
“I mean, I maybe played a handful of matches over the past year and a half, just in Switzerland, so it was a great feeling, and even though it was an individual win, I think this will give our whole team confidence. It’ll help all of us believe that we’re a force to be reckoned with,” said von der Schulenburg. “It was also amazing to see that even in Milwaukee we had some fans that were Harvard alumni come and watch and support us. It’s so cool to have people from Harvard come from all over the place to support you.”
Senior Brian Shi and sophomore Ronan Jachuck also put up strong showings at the tournament, with Shi winning his first two matches, the first in straight sets and the second in a hard-fought battle against the No. 1 seed in the tournament and nationally-ranked Ronnie Hohmann of LSU in the quarterfinals. The senior came out with a winning result in three sets, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.
As for how the team is feeling after this positive performance all around, von der Schulenburg feels very optimistic.
“I think we all got a bit more confident, and I think that we all know that if we play well together we can be a really good team,” said the Switzerland native. “And that’s our mindset now going into every tournament, that we’re not just some Ivy League that is somehow Division 1, but we’re actually one of the better teams in the country and can go really far. I think other teams are definitely going to respect us more now than ever before.”
Von der Schulenburg also noted that while each and every athlete on the team trained consistently over the pandemic and improved parts of their game, still nothing has compared to being back on campus together again as one team.
“It’s so much easier to practice and dig deeper, and it’s so much more fun, especially being a tennis player and usually being by yourself,” said the sophomore. You get used to that, but having a team around you has such a big influence on you and your game. You know that if you’re having a bad day, your teammates are there to hype you up. I think that’s what makes college tennis so special, and I think we all really missed that.”
After a long and grueling pandemic, the Crimson men were eager to get off to a hot start, and with the success they had this weekend they accomplished just that. With a slugfest against Florida, winners of the national championship this past spring, on the horizon this weekend in Cambridge at the Chowder Fest tournament, Harvard will look to continue their early success and prove why they deserve to be considered one of the top teams in the nation.
—Staff writer David Aley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.