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Tennis Plays in Rolex

By Daniel Wang
Team Member

Ever since the inception of the Rolex National Small College Tennis Championships four years ago, the MIT men's tennis team has enjoyed considerable success, if not dominance, in the New England Regional tournament.

The Engineers' history consists of three doubles champions and two singles champions. A handful of those who did not win the tournament reached either the semifinals or finals. Interestingly, none of the doubles pairs repeated their victories; the only common factor was Jay Muelhoefer G, who won three consecutive titles with three different partners.

The string of triumphs, however, ended this weekend in the fifth edition of the Championships. With a team relatively lacking in experience, no representatives survived into the final day of competition, and only one made it past the first of the three-day event.

The action commenced early Friday afternoon with the first round of singles. Having lost the top four players to graduation, this was the first time that the host MIT did not have any seeded players in either singles or doubles.

First singles player Jason Weintraub '97 and third singles player Dan Wang '97 were the first ones from MIT on the court. Both had quick matches, but with very different results.

Weintraub faced Kenny Leng of Amherst College, the only one of the school's three representatives to be unseeded. Leng, nonetheless, gave Weintraub plenty of trouble, and won, 61, 61.

Many courts away, Wang had an easy 61, 62 win over Brian Ylisto of Wheaton College. Ylisto had trouble dealing with the gusty conditions and made several unforced errors. However, he threatened to make a comeback from a 61, 50 deficit, and won two games before Wang was able to close out the match.

Following Wang's singles match, second singles player Geoff Lanyon '98 took to the court against Mitch Baruchuwitz of Brandeis University. Lanyon opened with a disastrous first set, losing 61.

In the second set, he battled back and forced a tiebreaker with the help of a few forehand groundstroke winners. His opponent gained the early edge in the tiebreaker, and even had two match points. On the first, Baruchuwitz netted a forehand groundstroke. On the second one, Lanyon came up with a volley winner. Lanyon then used the momentum to win the breaker, 97.

Early in the final set, Lanyon fell behind, but stayed close enough. He overcame a 65 deficit to go into yet another tiebreaker. He had the early lead this time, but fell victim to a few errors and some questionable line calls (among many throughout the match). On the third match point against him, Lanyon netted a backhand volley, and was eliminated.

After singles play ended, Lanyon elected to begin his doubles match immediately. He and Wang, the lone MIT pair, drew the top seeded team of Dennis Geronimus and Rich Yung of Williams College.

The duo started slowly, having its serve broken twice, and falling behind 30, despite many game points. However, things started to get going, as both MIT players connected for strong services returns and volleys.

Lanyon and Wang slowly worked their way back, and broke back to establish a 54 lead and a chance to win the first set. They would be denied, though, as the Williams pair battled back to break Lanyon's serve, and take the next two games to win, 75.

As the second set progressed, night began to fall and the lights went on. The lighting was less than ideal which, combined with the wind, gave difficulty to all four players, especially in quick exchanges.

The second set was much like the first for the MIT pair. They were first to be broken on serve, but quickly rebounded. They broke back and lead 54. Yung had been struggling with the his serve most of the match, but pulled out a win the following game.

At 55 and Lanyon serving, the MIT team had more chances to go ahead. Unfortunately, Lanyon doubled-faulted on game point. The Williams team ended up winning the next two points to go ahead 65.

Geronimus then held serve quite easily, with the help of Wang missing two volleys, to win the game and the match. With that result, the school with the defending champion had been eliminated in the first round.

With two singles players and the doubles team out of the tournament, the Engineers' hopes rested on Wang, the lowest player in the lineup participating. He was able to keep the hopes alive for MIT going for one more match before bowing out in the quarterfinals.

Wang went up against Jon Baker of Tufts University for his first match, in the sixteenth round. In the previous round, Baker eliminated the eighth seed in straight sets.

In this match, though, things went the way of the MIT player most of the time. Wang made many volley winners and caused Baker to make numerous errors.

Although struggling with his service returns, Wang was able to break Baker's serve in the final game of both sets, after having his own serve broken. The result was a 63, 64 win, sending Wang into the final eight.

In the quarters, Wang faced Gerry Perez of Colby College, a virtual unknown who defeated the seventh seed in an earlier round. The first set went entirely the way of Perez, who frustrated Wang with many unreturnable shots that hit the lines, and won, 60.

In the second set, Wang slowed the pace down, but still tried to attack. There was some degree of success, as he remained on serve with Perez. But he squandered a 32 lead, losing his serve and the next three games. Throughout the way, almost every time Wang approached the net, Perez came up with either sharp angles or hard shots that painted the lines.

With thoughts of a comeback, Wang managed to win the next game to reduce the gap to 54. He needed to break Perez's serve to stay in the match, but that would not be the case, as Perez finished the last game quite easily to win the match, 60, 64.

The tournament featured many upsets; of eight seeded players, only two reached the semifinals, with only top-seeded Geronimus, the eventual winner reaching the finals.

Geronimus also continued winning in the doubles with his partner Yung, reaching the finals before losing to an Amherst team, 6-0. 6-3.

The singles and doubles champions at each of the eight regional tournaments will travel to Oklahoma City, Okla. to square off against each other in the National Small College Tennis Championships later this month.

The MIT team will play its final match of the fall season against the Harvard University "B" squad tomorrow afternoon. Although the Harvard team consists of its second tier of players, it has always defeated MIT.

After the Harvard match, the MIT players will begin their hibernation in the J.B. Carr Indoor Tennis Center, better known as The Bubble. There, they will have a long time to prepare for the similarly long spring season ahead, with the first match in March.