Success in singles, but disappointing doubles showing for Jumbos

Senior tri-captain Nick Cary played doubles this past weekend at the Regional Singles Championship at Williams, but crashed out in the first round. Caroline Geiling / The Tufts Daily

On Friday, sophomore Rohan Gupte advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2015 Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Regional Singles Championship held at Williams, beating opponents from Clark University, Colby-Sawyer College and Middlebury.

Gupte won his first two matches easily, with scores of 6-2, 6-3 against first-year Alex Wright of Colby-Sawyer College and 6-1, 6-0 against senior Fernando Pinoargote of Clark University. On Saturday, he clinched a third victory in three sets with a score of 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 against Middlebury sophomore Timo van der Geest, progressing to the quarterfinals. Gupte was defeated in the quarterfinals by first-year Alex Cauneac of MIT. Despite being able to take the second set against Cauneac, he eventually lost 6-1, 3-6, 6-4.

“I felt like I played a solid game; I served strongly, and I hit all my groundstrokes pretty well,” Gupte said. “You just can’t prejudge an opponent before he walks on the court.”

Gupte’s performance did not escape the attention of coach Karl Gregor. The eventual winner of the tournament, Middlebury sophomore Noah Farrell, had lost to Gupte last year, which makes Gregor confident that Gupte can contend with top competitors in the NESCAC.

“Gupte was the highlight,” Gregor said. “I think he could have won his quarterfinals game, but we’re still pretty early in the fall. The guys are still finding their game, [but] he knows that he’s right in the ballpark with the other top players in the country and conference.”

The two doubles pairs that competed had high aspirations going into the tournament, as they were seeded second and fifth among the 32 teams competing. In matches that were played first to eight games, the second-seeded pair of Gupte and senior Nik Telkedzhiev were defeated 8-4 by Amherst senior Ben Fife and first-year Zach Bessette in the first round, while fifth-seeded junior Ben Battle and senior Nick Cary fell to Bowdoin’s duo of sophomore Kyle Wolfe and first-year Jerry Jiang by a score of 8-3, also in the first round. This was an unexpected result for the Jumbos, who had anticipated a much more successful run in the doubles. Both of the opposing duos reached the semi-finals stage.

“I’d attribute the result to a slow start for Battle and Cary,” Gregor said. “They didn’t really get into the match the way they needed to. They played well toward the end, but it was a little too late.”

There were two other Jumbos in the singles tournament at Williams. However, both Battle and sophomore Zain Ali lost in the first round. Gregor pointed to the difficult draw that the Jumbos received to explain the result: Ali’s opponent was Farrell, who went on to win the tournament, while Battle’s opponent was the other finalist, Bowdoin sophomore Luke Tercek.

“We didn’t get as deep into the draws as I would have liked,” Gregor said. “In a 64-draw tournament, it’s nice to get a round or two under your belt to get some momentum before having to play some better players.”

Telkedzhiev managed to progress to the second round of the tournament, blowing past Endicott senior Michael Dolph 6-1, 6-1. Telkedzhiev was tested against Wesleyan junior Jake Roberts, losing the first set 6-3, but managed to clinch the second set 6-3. The match culminated in a tense tiebreaker, with Telkedzhiev ultimately losing out 7-6 (9-7).

“It’s still the beginning of the season — we can still improve, we need to practice together and work on our communication,” Gupte said.

Gregor echoed Gupte’s insistence that the team expects to improve over the course of practices and matches throughout the season.

“We are going to increase the focus and intensity of practices, which comes with getting further into the season,” Gregor said.

With the tournament coming only three weeks into the new school year, Gregor prioritized getting the team onto the courts and hitting as much as possible. He said that this single-centric mentality explained why doubles play had been neglected in practice. He aims to remind the team of its goal of finishing in the top three of the NESCAC, and wants to emphasize that hard work is needed to get to the level of some other schools.

The team is looking ahead to the Wallach Invitational at Bates and the Boston Invitational at home, both of which are scheduled to take place in October. Last year, the Gupte/Cary doubles team finished runner-up at the Boston Invitational, and will be looking to repeat their success next month.

The Jumbos hope to translate their practice into more wins against many of the same opponents, with familiar contenders such as Middlebury attending the Boston Invitational. The tournament will be held at Tufts on the weekend of Oct. 24.