On Sunday, Oct. 13, the No. 6 doubles tandem of senior Jackie Tang and junior Jack Lin secured the doubles title at the ITA All-American in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This win marks the first doubles title in program history.
Columbia’s success at ITA All-American marked a major accomplishment for Ivy League tennis, as this was the first time the Ancient Eight swept the doubles title completely with a Yale pair clinching the women’s double title.
By winning the ITA All-American, Tang and Lin receive an automatic bid for the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships on Nov. 6-10 in Newport Beach, California.
Tang and Lin went 6-0 in the fall 2018 season before Tang suffered an injury. Lin continued the fall season and the spring dual season as doubles partners with Will Matheson, CC ’19.
The tandem were the only Columbia pair to qualify for the main draw. The pair’s first round match against Denver’s James Davis and Matt Summers went into a tiebreaker 6-3, 3-6, 1-0 (5). In their second round, Lin and Tang made quick work of Matias Soto and Constantin Frantzen of Baylor 6-4, 6-2 in straight sets.
In the quarterfinals, the pair found themselves facing a ranked competitor, Florida’s No. 4 Brian Berdusco and Johannes Ingildsen. Lin and Tang dominated the court with dominant returns at the net.
The second set was more of a struggle for the Lions, as Florida took the early lead. The duo rallied back with Tang returning a service with a ripping forehand that landed Columbia the final point needed to clinch the match.
Tang and Lin fell behind Duke’s Sean Sculley and Nick Stachowiak in the semifinals, dropping the first set 4-6. Columbia rallied back from the loss, winning the second set 6-4. The 10-point tiebreaker set gave the final victory to Columbia 10-6.
In the finals against University of Central Florida’s Juan Pablo Mazzuchi and Gabriel Decamps, the Lions trailed in the first set 3-6. However, due to strong returns from both Lin and Tang, the Light Blue overcame the deficit, 6-2, 1-0 (6) to gain the doubles title.
By winning the doubles crown, Lin and Tang became the second Ivy League pair to clinch the title. The only other pair to do so was Harvard’s James Blake and Kunj Majmudar in 1998. Blake would go on to become No. 4 in the world in singles.
Additionally, First-year Alex Kotzen was a standout in this tournament. While competing in the pre-qualifying bracket, Kotzen triumphed over three competitors. Kotzen was unable to replicate the same results in the fourth round of competition, succumbing to SMU’s Ethan Leon 6-1, 7-6 (5).
Lin is currently the top-ranked player in both singles and doubles in the Ivy League and is the only player in the country that is both top 10 in singles and doubles. In addition to his high quality of play on the court, Lin is also pre-med. For Lin’s success, he has had to figure out how to prioritize his time to maintain his GPA and his tennis ranking.
“[Lin] takes a lot of pride in performing at the highest level both on the court and in the classroom. He’s willing to make a lot of sacrifices to be prepared on both sides, which not many people are willing to do,” head coach Howard Endelman said.
Last year, Lin was unable to compete at ITA All-American because of a chemistry exam he was not allowed to miss, but this year came back with a renewed vigor.
No. 9 Lin was seeded fifth in singles for the tournament and was the only member of the Lions in the main draw. He went on to best BYU’s No. 55 Sean Hill in straight sets 6-2, 6-3.
However, in the second round of singles play, the junior fell short to No. 33 Alexandre Rotsaert from Stanford 6-3, 7-5.
This tournament was No. 77 Tang’s first since fall 2018. The senior was forced to sit out the dual season in the spring due to his injury.
While capturing his first singles match 6-3, 6-4, Tang was defeated in the second round of qualifiers 6-4, 7-5.
No. 56 senior Adam Ambrozy, in his first appearance of the season, No. 74 junior Rian Pandole, and junior Austen Huang were unable to make a dent in the competition falling in the first round of qualifiers.
According to Endelman, putting in new players rather than playing veterans for previous tournaments will be great experience before the spring dual season.
“We’ve been mixing it up recently. We want to live as many players a chance to play to see what we got.”
The Lions will continue their success moving into ITA Northeast Regionals. In addition to Tang, Columbia will be represented by Ambrozy, Pandole, Huang, Kotzen, junior Jason Lui, and sophomore Ben Gollin, competing in both singles and doubles; first-year Ritik Sundaram will only be competing in singles.
Lin and former doubles partner Will Matheson clinched the title for two consecutive years. In 2017 Lin and Matheson went on to defeat Tang and then-partner Victor Pham, CC ’19, in an all-Columbia final.
However, men’s tennis was not able to muster the same energy in singles at Northeast Regionals last year, with Tang and Lin falling in the quarter-finals and semi-finals in 2018, respectively.
The expectations for the Light Blue are extremely high, but Endelman is excited for the challenge ahead.
“We’re just going to go out there and compete as hard as we can. We’re just going to try to get a little bit better and embrace whatever adversity there is because that is an opportunity to improve,” he said.
ITA Northeast Regionals will begin on Thursday, Oct. 17 at Penn. Play will begin at 9 a.m. and can be streamed on CourtHive.