Men's tennis defeats NYU, Chicago at UAAs

As its season draws to a close, the 15th-ranked Carnegie Mellon men’s tennis team geared up for the University Athletic Association (UAA) championship hosted by the University of Rochester this past weekend. Right before heading out to New York, the Tartans made a quick stop at Grove City College and won 9–0.

At UAAs, the team came out strong, beating down New York University 7–2 and 18th-ranked University of Chicago 7–2. The Tartans fought a disappointing 8–1 loss to second-ranked Washington University in St. Louis during a long week of competitive play. Carnegie Mellon now has a shot at the regional NCAA championships held in a few weeks, and moves to a season record of 19–7.

“This was a pretty good weekend and everyone played very well,” junior Nikola Ljuboja said. “Our match against Wash. U. was a bit disappointing, but they are a strong team and we knew the competition was tough from the start.”

Against Grove City, the Tartans established their dominance quickly, taking all three doubles and dropping only four games for all three matches. The teams of junior Jon Spero and sophomore Bobby MacTaggart and Ljuboja and junior James Muliawan each won their doubles 8–0, while sophomore Alex Nemerov and junior Ravi Raghavan won 8–4. In singles, the Tartans steamrolled over Grove City, with each player losing no more than seven games each.
In the first day of play at UAAs, the Tartans easily put down NYU 7–2, taking two of three doubles and all but one singles match. At first doubles, Nemerov and senior Yiran Liu won 8–5, followed by a decisive 8–2 win by Muliawan and first-year Jeremy King at second doubles. The Tartans were able to keep their momentum going and took five more wins from NYU. MacTaggart won in a close 4–6, 6–4, 7–6 (10–6). Nemerov also won a tight match 7–6 (7–4), 6–1. King, Liu, and Spero added their respective singles points to the total.

The semifinal match against top-ranked Wash. U. proved to be more than the Tartans could handle, and they were defeated 8–1 after giving up all three doubles and the remaining singles matches. Liu showed an incredible display of mental endurance during his match, after coming back from being down 0–6, 0–3 to win 7–5 (10–8) in the third-set tiebreak. Raghavan put out a commendable effort, barely losing 6–7, 6–3, 10–3 in the third, while Spero had a close first set but lost 7–5, 6–1 in the end.

“After losing nine games in a row, I started playing a bit better and got a lucky break in the second set,” said Liu of his comeback. “I saw an opportunity and just went for it.”

The Tartans were able to regroup for the next round and defeated Chicago 7–2 to take third place. Nemerov and Spero won easily at second and fourth singles 6–3, 6–1 and 6–2, 6–2, respectively, but MacTaggart had a close match, winning 6–2, 4–6, 10–8 in the end. At last singles, Liu only dropped a single game to win 6–1, 6–0, while Raghavan pulled out a win in a close three-set match, 6–4, 3–6, 10–8.

“We really came out focused today and had one of our best matches of the year. The team did what we needed to do this weekend to put ourselves in a good position to make NCAAs,” said coach Andy Girard. “Now we have to wait and see what happens with other teams over the next two weekends.” NCAA selections are announced on May 4.