The Tufts men’s tennis team kicked off its fall season at the Middlebury Invitational (Sept. 23–24) and the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Regional Championships (Sept. 29–30). Over the course of both weekends, the Jumbos competed against NESCAC rivals and Div. III teams from across the region.
Although the regular season starts midway through March, the team competes in these events during the fall in order to prepare and refine players’ match play.
At the ITA Regional Championships on Friday and Saturday, the doubles pair of first-year Carl-Herman Grant and senior tri-captain Ben Battle won two matches, before falling 8–4 to juniors Noah Farrell and Peter Martin of Middlebury. In singles, first-year Boris Sorkin won two matches before losing in a tight contest 7–5, 7–6 (7) to Williams senior Brian Grodecki.
Sorkin, an international student from Saint Petersburg, Russia, made impressive runs in just his first and second events representing Tufts, yet coach Karl Gregor sees the first-year taking it even further as Sorkin adapts to collegiate tennis.
“Boris ran up against a tough opponent,” said Gregor. “Tennis in the U.S is played on hard courts, rather than on clay in Europe. The noise and atmosphere of college tennis is different, but he’ll adjust.”
Tufts issued statement victories at the Middlebury Invitational, with several players either advancing to the finals or winning their respective flights. In the C singles division, sophomore Ben Biswas blitzed through the field to the final, which he won 6–3, 6–0 against sophomore Jack McClaren of Skidmore College.
Biswas’ high level of play continued in his doubles victory, as he paired with sophomore Ethan Bershtein to face Sorkin and Grant in an all-Jumbo final. The match went the distance, with Biswas and Bershtein digging deep for a 9–7 win.
Both new and old faces on the team continued to have success, as first-year Armaan Kalra advanced to the D division semifinals before losing to the No. 1 seed and eventual champion, first-year Brian Niguidula of RPI 6–1, 7–6 (8). Tufts senior Rohan Gupte lost to defending NCAA champion and No. 1 seed Lubomir Cuba of Middlebury College in the A division quarterfinals 6–4, 7–5.
Battle stressed the importance of getting strong results throughout the fall season.
“[The] fall results 100 percent set us up for the spring because we’re going to be playing the exact same people in the spring,” said Battle. “What’s really important is showing that we mean business in the fall. We want them to be intimidated by us.”
As tennis is typically an individual sport, the team dynamic of collegiate competition brings a welcome feeling of unity, and Battle is confident that the Jumbos have built strong team chemistry over the past few weeks.
“We’ve been one of the loudest teams out there,” said Battle. “[It] shows that we care about each other’s success — we get loud in the fall, and we get even louder in the spring.”
One of the keys to this dynamic is that the Jumbos make sure to hang out apart from their time on court, according to sophomore Jason Scanlon.
“We’ve been doing a lot of team dinners like social gatherings at the captains’ houses, and we always try to have one kind of unique, fun event every weekend that the whole team goes to,” Scanlon said. “Basically, off the court we are still spending a lot of time with each other and getting to know the [first-years] and creating closer bonds with current members of the team.”
As a sophomore reflecting on a full year with the team, Scanlon articulated that being a member of the tennis team was instrumental to his first year at Tufts.
“It was definitely one of the highlights of my college experience,” said Scanlon “[The team] really helped me transition from high school to college and made my first year really fun.”
While the Jumbos have posted respectable results in the first two major events of the fall season, Coach Gregor hopes to step up the team’s level going forward.
“[I] don’t feel like we traditionally do as well in the fall,” said Gregor. “[We’re] usually lagging a bit behind the competition in the fall [and] come back stronger in the spring. We want to be strong in the fall and strong in the spring.”
With a new approach to team practices this year, Scanlon is confident the Jumbos can improve on preparing for matches to come.
“This year, we are doing something a little different in that we evaluate our performance over the weekend at the tournaments and then apply that to our practices,” Scanlon said. “I think this year we are doing a lot better job in practicing with a purpose.”
The Jumbos will be back in action on Oct. 14–15 at the MIT Invitational.