Men’s tennis cruised past Mississippi 4-1 for the second time in as many weeks to remain undefeated this season.
The Lions (5-0), ranked No. 14 in the most recent Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, topped Mississippi 4-1 for the second time this season and subsequently improved to 42-2 at the Dick Savitt Tennis Center since the beginning of the 2013 season.
Playing in front of a packed house at the Savitt Center and buoyed by the home crowd, the Light Blue captured a tight doubles point to take a quick 1-0 lead after head coach Bid Goswami switched his first and second teams in the lineup.
In Charlottesville, Columbia lost the doubles point against the Rebels (8-2) after the then-No. 15 pair of junior Victor Pham and sophomore Jackie Tang fell 6-1 at first doubles. Having now improved to the No. 7 ranking, the pair played today at second doubles, while the No. 28 pair of junior Will Matheson and first-year Jack Lin moved up to first doubles.
Playing at first doubles, Matheson and Lin finished first, tallying a 6-4 victory over Mississippi’s No. 15-ranked pair of Tim Sandkaulen and Fabian Fallert. Next to finish were Pham and Tang, who battled back down a break to capture a 7-5 victory at second doubles over the No. 21-ranked pair of Filip Kraljevic and Zvonimir Babic, earning the point for the Lions 45 minutes after play began at 12 p.m.
“Before the match I thought, let’s try something different when it [comes] to doubles. I’m just glad it worked out,” Goswami said. “Both Mississippi pairs were ranked, so I was very happy with the team’s performance.”
With the Lions possessing a 1-0 lead, unlike in the last contest against the Rebels, the team needed just three victories to finish the match. These would come from No. 49 Tang, No. 15 Pham, and junior Timothy Wang at third, first, and sixth singles, respectively.
After spending last weekend in Hong Kong for the Davis Cup, Tang battled jet lag all week, but had no problems with Babic at third singles, cruising to a 6-1, 6-1 victory after moving down a spot in the lineup. Goswami was particularly pleased with the sophomore’s performance given the circumstances and was sure to note that Tang had also won his match in Hong Kong.
At fourth singles, first-year Austen Huang struggled against Mississippi’s Grey Hamilton, a lefty against whom he played in the team’s first match back in Charlottesville. Huang fell 6-3, 6-4, putting the score at 2-1.
Yet in what has become a pattern for the Lions this season, the junior co-captains in Pham and Wang delivered at first and sixth singles to keep the Light Blue perfect this season.
Pham collected his second victory in as many tries against No. 20 Gustav Hansson, this time winning 6-3, 6-4. Goswami praised the play of Pham, noting that the junior played outstanding tennis in the comforts of the Savitt Center.
“I was with Victor the whole time and thought he played a great match,” Goswami said. “Hansson is a very good player, but Victor is playing really well, especially on our courts because he loves these courts.”
Finally, Wang, who has anchored the sixth singles position for almost all of his three years in Morningside Heights, had to battle back down 4-5 and facing set point in the first set of his match. But Wang delivered, breaking on deuce, and eventually captured the set 7-5. The second set was much easier for him, as he finished off a 6-2 win to clinch the victory for the Lions, who improved to 5-0 for the season.
While the match was closer than the score may have indicated, perhaps the most impressive accomplishment of the two wins over Mississippi is the fact that the Rebels have had plenty of success against top opponents, including wins over Cornell, Princeton, Virginia, and then-No. 9 Baylor. The Rebels’ sole defeats for the season have come by Columbia.
With two victories in hands against the Rebels, the team will go into the ITA Team National Indoors next weekend in Seattle with an undefeated record. The Light Blue will await its fate as the draw will be released on Tuesday.
“I’m really happy for the guys, and thought it was a great team match,” Goswami said. “It’s always hard to beat an opponent twice, but clearly we were ready for it.”
Men’s tennis alumnus Max Schnur, CC ’15, was awarded a Wild Card for the New York Open, and will enter the doubles Main Draw with his partner, former NCAA Champion and UCLA standout Mackenzie McDonald. Schnur, who qualified for the main draw of Wimbledon this past summer in doubles, will play his first match on Monday, with play set to start around 6 p.m.
Men’s tennis will next head to Seattle, where it will play three matches against the nation’s top teams in the ITA National Team Indoor Championship. The draw will be released on Tuesday, as the team’s first opponent and that match’s start time is to be determined.