Tufts falls to Wesleyan, splits Saturday doubleheader

Sophomore Ethan Bershtein approaches a drop shot during Tufts' 6–3 loss to Middlebury on April 8. Ray Bernoff / The Tufts Daily

The No. 15 Tufts men’s tennis team went 1–2 across three road NESCAC matches over the weekend. On Saturday, Tufts fell to No. 13 Wesleyan, 8–1. The following day, the Jumbos beat the Hamilton Continentals, 6–3, in the morning before losing to the No. 4 Williams Ephs, 7–2, in the afternoon.

Senior co-captain Ben Battle expressed his disappointment with the team’s two losses.

“We came out pretty slow,” Battle said. “We were able to make some flashy comebacks, but that [ultimately] wasn’t enough.”

Williams (11–2) entered Sunday’s tilt riding a six-match win streak and sprinted to a 3–0 lead in doubles play. The Jumbos’ senior duo of Rohan Gupte and Zain Ali was defeated, 9–7, by senior co-captain Brian Grodecki and junior Deepak Indrakanti in first doubles. Tufts sophomore Ethan Bershtein and first-year Boris Sorkin fell by the same scoreline to Williams senior co-captain Jordan Sadowsky and first-year Arturo Kam in No. 3 doubles. In the second spot, Tufts sophomore Nathan Niemiec and first-year Carl-Herman Grant were bested by Williams sophomore Alex Taylor and first-year Calvin Chung, 8–1.

Tufts took two of the six singles showdowns to get on the scoreboard. Ali kept his nerve to fight through Williams senior co-captain Sachin Raghavan 6–4, 6–7, 10–6 in third singles, while Grant broke past Taylor in two tight sets 7–5, 7–5.

After losing the first set, Sorkin fired back to push Williams first-year Austin Barr, who entered the season ranked No. 8 in Div. III, to a decisive third set, before falling 6–2, 4–6, 6–3 in No. 2 singles. However, the Ephs took matches in first, fourth and sixth singles for a comfortable win.

At Wesleyan on Saturday, Tufts also went down early with an 0–3 mark in doubles play. The No. 3 doubles match was particularly competitive, but Bershtein and Sorkin narrowly lost, 9–8, to Wesleyan senior co-captains Steven Chen and Cam Daniels.

Chen doubled down on his victory at No. 1 singles, defeating Gupte 6–4, 7–6 in a tight straight-set battle. In the fifth spot, Niemiec started strong to take the first set, yet eventually fell to first-year Adrian Roji 2–6, 6–0, 10–2. Sorkin registered the Jumbos’ lone win in third singles, brushing past senior co-captain Tiago Eusebio 6–3, 6–0.

Although the weekend’s two losses were disappointing, the Jumbos hope to take away valuable lessons for future improvement.

“I think [the losses] on Saturday and Sunday showed us how important getting off to a good start in doubles is for the important matches,” Battle said. “We need to work on coming out hot and being ready to take it to our opponents off the first ball.”

Just hours before their defeat in Williamstown, Mass., the Jumbos defeated the Hamilton Continentals (4–9), 6–3, for their second conference victory. Half of the team competed against Hamilton in the morning, while the other half played Williams in the afternoon. Sophomore Jason Scanlon noted the importance of Sunday’s schedule for gaining match experience.

“Having that doubleheader was really great,” Scanlon said. “Everyone got to play this weekend.”

Against Hamilton, Tufts raced out to a 3–0 lead in doubles, with Scanlon and senior co-captain Justin Brogan downing the first-year duo of Matt May and Eamon Gibbons, 8–2, in third doubles.

The singles matches, however, were more competitive, as the Continentals wrested three matches from the Jumbos. In No. 3 singles, Tufts first-year Owen Bartok lost 6–2, 6–1 to Hamilton first-year Max Zimmerman. Jumbos sophomore Zach Shaff and first-year Armaan Kalra were defeated in second and fifth singles, respectively.

Scanlon, however, came through in the third set of his match to clinch the Jumbos’ victory, closing out first-year Tim Derby 6–1, 6–7 (5), 6–2 in fourth singles.

Scanlon detailed how Tufts’ early lead in the doubles competition, combined with his own concentration, were crucial to his victory.

“The 3–0 lead in doubles was a huge morale booster,” Scanlon said. “I wasn’t really thinking about the impact my match had for the whole team. [I was] just focusing one point at a time.”

Tufts (7–4) will take the court again on Friday for another conference showdown, versus No. 24 Bates (5–7) in Lewiston, Maine, which will be crucial in deciding qualification to next month’s NESCAC tournament. The Jumbos failed to qualify for last year’s tournament and are eager to earn a postseason berth.

Despite the stakes, Battle affirmed the team’s confidence heading into next week.

“We want to go out there and compete as hard as we can,” Battle said. “We know we’re the better team, [so] we want to go out with confidence and trust our games. That should produce the results we want.”

After playing Bates, Tufts will take on two non-conference opponents, visiting RPI the following day before facing off against No. 26 Skidmore on Sunday.