Following the graduation of half of the men’s tennis team’s singles lineup last season, the team was plagued with injuries — ranging from nagging to severe — during the team’s formative fall months, which are crucial for deciding who steps into the vacant positions. Going into this season, the team had far more questions than answers as to where it would progress.
However, this fall season fits the model coaches hope for when thinking about building toward a conference schedule. The results have only gotten better since the season’s start, and players have dramatically improved. No. 13 Tufts has shown a steady growth, rather than isolated erratic results, which suggests the improving play is supported by improving mechanics and conditioning, according to junior Danny Coran.
“I think one of our strengths is the way we practice,” Coran told the Daily in an email. “Our coach, Karl Gregor, always stresses the importance of ‘practicing like you play.’ This means maintaining the level of intensity and focus that you would normally bring to a match. Karl is a great coach and runs practice very efficiently. He also has incorporated more conditioning and fitness into our practices, which is crucial in tennis. Our guys always support each other during practice. We try to get loud to replicate the atmosphere of a dual match.”
The results last weekend at the Bates Invitational prove just how much growth has taken place for this team over the course of the fall season. Sophomore Ethan Chen, the standout of the fall season, made a finals run in the singles B flight falling to Skidmore College junior Lucas Pickering in two sets. Coran came away with a semifinals appearance in the singles C flight after dispatching his first two opponents 6-1, 6-2 and 6-1, 6-1 respectively. Junior Rohan Gupte, coming off an injury, made the final in the singles A flight.
“Ethan [Chen] has been playing great tennis and I know he will be an important piece for us come spring,” Coran said.
Ethan Bershtein, one of the first-years at the tournament who played both singles and doubles, defeated his first singles opponent 7-5, 6-4 but fell in the second round. The pair of Bershtein and Chen advanced to the semi-finals of the B bracket in doubles as well.
“My proudest moment was definitely winning my first career match with Ethan Chen in doubles,” Bershtein said. “That first doubles match was also my toughest one as we were not playing our best to start and got down a pretty big deficit before staying positive, pulling it together and making a comeback victory.”
With the fall season winding down, the team has begun to cast its sight on the spring, when competitions will matter more towards the team’s rank rather than for individual accolades.
“[I’m] definitely a bit nervous for my first season, but I think that if we trust the work we put in every day at practice we should be fine and reach our potential as a top team in the country,” Bershtein said.
The MIT Invitational, which is being held this weekend, is the last tournament of the fall season. The Jumbos have shown the steady growth looked for in improving teams but have yet to win a flight. Proving they can outlast all competitors in the tournament is a major hurdle to overcome this season.