Spring break a success for men’s tennis, wins three to improve record to 10–4
In sunny Claremont, Calif. during spring break, the number-nine Carnegie Mellon men’s tennis team was busy defeating several top teams from the Western region. The Tartans prevailed over Chapman University, number-17 Redlands University, and number-13 Trinity University on their trip to bring their season record to 10–4.
The Tartans started their first match of the break with a 9–0 victory over Chapman University. After a quick sweep of doubles to put Carnegie Mellon ahead 3–0, the Tartans took the remaining six singles in straight sets, with the exception of senior James Muliawan, who topped his opponent 10–4 in a third-set tiebreak.
Two days later the Tartans were able to face their longtime rival, the University of Redlands. The third time was the charm, as the Tartans were able to decisively overcome the Bulldogs 6–3 after losing 5–4 the previous two years. First-year Duke Miller and partner sophomore Jeremy King added the only doubles point to the total, beating their opponents 8–6. Not wanting a repeat of the previous year’s losses, the Tartans rallied from 1–2 and won five singles matches to give them the win. Notable wins came from junior Alex Nemerov and first-year Harsha Rao, 6–3, 6–1, and 6–3, 6–2, respectively.
“This week showed us what we need to work on, since we were down in doubles against all three ranked teams we played,” Spero noted. “I was impressed with our singles, though, especially against Redlands.”
The real strength test for the Tartans came during their third match, when the Tartans faced fifth-ranked Claremont Mudd-Scripps in an evening match. With the natural elements working against the normally indoor court-conditioned Tartans, they were unable to gain an early advantage from the doubles matches. The only win came from the number-one doubles duo of Muliawan and his partner, senior Niko Ljuboja. Muliawan also won the only singles match against the Athenas, topping Ronald Wu 6–3, 6–2. This loss (7–2) would be the only one of the trip, however.
“This was a really tough team, but the difference between them and us wasn’t that significant,” Ljuboja commented.
With only one day left in their vacation, the Tartans faced their final and most determined opponents yet. Number-13 Trinity University had a well-balanced team, with tough players in spots one through six. At the end of the doubles round, the Tartans found themselves down 2–1, with the single point coming thanks to the duo of King and Miller.
As the singles round progressed, the Tigers kept the Tartans on edge with sharp playing and unorthodox tactics. Miller contributed a win at fourth singles, 6–3, 6–4, while senior Jonathan Spero breezed through his match at fifth singles, dropping only four games, 6–1, 6–3. With the score showing a slim 3–2 Tartan lead, the outcome of the match was still unclear.
Nemerov finished his match a short while later, winning in three and coming back from being down 4–6. The final point came from junior Bobby MacTaggart. MacTaggart, who plays a power game, faced an opponent also named Bobby, who loved hitting the ball with brute force just as much as MacTaggart. In an entertaining finale, MacTaggart outlasted his opponent 6–4, 3–6, 6–1 to give the Tartans the win, 5–4.
“CMS just outplayed us. They played at a very high level and showed us that we need to raise our level if we want to compete for a national championship,” Spero reflected at the end of the trip. “California was a good learning experience, but most importantly we took care of business out there and beat two very good teams. We’ll be having tough practices this week because we know Mary Washington is a great team that can beat us if we aren’t ready to play.”
The Tartans play their first match on home courts against Johns Hopkins University on Sunday, April 4. They are next in action Saturday at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia.