Men’s tennis competes at MIT Fall Invitational

Senior Zain Ali hits a volley during practice before the game at MIT Invitational on Oct. 17, 2017. (Angelie Xiong / The Tufts Daily)

Tufts competed in MIT’s Fall Invitational on Oct. 13–15, taking on NESCAC rivals and various Div. III teams from the Northeast.

The doubles team of senior tri-captain Benjamin Battle and sophomore Zach Shaff made an impressive run, advancing to the quarterfinals of the tournament. Battle and Shaff opened with an 8–5 win over their bracket’s fifth seed, senior tri-captain William de Quant and first-year Andre Xiao of Middlebury. De Quant is the defending NCAA Div. III men’s doubles champion, making the win even more rewarding for the Jumbos.  Battle and Shaff went on to beat senior quad-captain Cam Daniels and first-year Zach Fleischman of Wesleyan with another 8–5 scoreline. The Tufts duo was eliminated in the quarterfinal round, losing 8–2 to junior Zach Bessette and first-year Kevin Ma of Amherst.

“We had a great win in the first round,” Shaff said. “After a tough start to the fall season, Battle really had a breakout performance in this tournament.”

Three other Tufts doubles teams competed in the tournament, with two of the three winning first-round matches in the main draw. Sophomore Ethan Bershtein and first-year Carl-Herman Grant beat Williams first-years Calvin Chung and Arturo Kam by a score of 8–4. They were then knocked out by sophomore Jayson Fung and first-year Ethan Hillis of Amherst, 8–4.

On the bottom half of the bracket, the third-seeded team of Tufts seniors Zain Ali and Rohan Gupte recorded an 8–4 first-round win over junior Jackson Kogan and first-year Rajan Vohra of Brandeis. They then lost 8–3 in the second round to sophomore Nathan Kaplan and first-year Sean Wei of Amherst. In the back draw, Tufts junior Ross Kamin and first-year Niko Hereford won by default in the first round against senior Omar Gonzalez and sophomore Nate Newhouse of MIT. The duo then lost 8–2 to MIT sophomores Albert Go and Victor Cheng.

Eight Tufts players competed in the 64-man singles main, and three of them won matches. Senior tri-captain Danny Coran defeated sophomore Jonathan Holtzman of Wesleyan in three sets (6–1, 4–6 and 6–1). In the subsequent round, Coran fell to Middlebury first-year Nate Eazor in a straight-sets defeat, 6–2, 6–4. Ali prevailed over MIT junior Sean Ko 7–6 (6), 6–3. The Dix Hills, N.Y. native put up a strong fight against senior tri-captain Gil Roddy of Bowdoin in the round of 32, but lost 6–2, 0–6, 6–4. Roddy lost 6–3, 6–3 in the next round to de Quant, the eventual runner-up.

First-year Boris Sorkin won one match for the Jumbos as well, defeating Brandeis sophomore David Aizenberg. Sorkin came back after dropping the first set 5–7, winning with scores of 6–1 and 6–2 to seal the victory. Sorkin then fell, however, to MIT first-year Charles Deng with scores of 2–6, 6–4 and 6–1.

The team is very excited about the new addition of Sorkin. Originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, Sorkin attended Spain’s Laude Lady Elizabeth School.

“[Sorkin] is a very talented player,” Shaff said. “He is getting really close to having big wins, and under the mentorship of the older players on our team, I can see him becoming an even greater contributor.”

The five Jumbos who failed to advance past the first round in the main draw instead competed in the singles back draw with mixed results. While first-year Owen Bartok and sophomore Justin Scanlon did not reverse their fortunes and fell to their first-round opponents in the consolation draw, Battle and Grant both were victorious.  Battle won 6–2, 6–4 over Middlebury first-year Adam Guo before losing 6–4, 6–3 to first-year Michael Zhao of MIT.  Grant defeated Brandeis senior Ethan Saal 7–6, 6–1 and then lost 6–4, 6–0 to Middlebury sophomore Alex Vanezis. Tufts sophomore Ben Biswas also took advantage of the opportunity of the back draw, advancing all the way to the semifinals. Biswas strung together three wins in a row, beating junior Zach Cihlar of Brandeis (6–4, 6–4), first-year Larry Zhao of Bowdoin (6–1, 1–6, 10–5) and sophomore Justin Patel of Bowdoin (6–4, 6–2).  Biswas eventually fell to Middlebury senior tri-captain Timo van der Geest in straight sets, 6–3, 6–3. Van der Geest went on to seal the victory in the back draw, defeating Amherst’s Hillis 6–3, 6–4 in the championship match.

Overall, the Jumbos improved their performance since the 2016 MIT Fall Invitational, and the team was happy with its progress.

“We didn’t do too well as a team last year at this tournament,” Ali said. “Although we didn’t do as well as we hoped we would do, we definitely took a step in the right direction this year. We have one more tournament coming up this fall, and we’re really excited to show what we can do.”

The final fall tournament for Tufts is the Wallach Invitational, which is hosted by Bates on the weekend of Oct. 21–22.