Men’s tennis takes two titles, makes deep runs at Middlebury

Sophomore Owen Bartok prepares to return a shot during a doubles match in Tufts' 8–1 loss to Bowdoin on April 28. Ben Kim / The Tufts Daily Archives

The Jumbos launched their fall season on the road in Vermont at the Middlebury Invitational, securing two singles titles and deep runs in the 2017–18 season’s opening tournament.

Sophomore sensation Boris Sorkin, who was seeded second in the tournament, steamrolled Bates first-year Pieter Wernink 6–0, 6–2 to take the A flight singles title. Sorkin, who saw action at the No. 1 singles spot several times last season, seared through the competition and dropped just 10 games throughout the entire singles tournament. In the same flight, Tufts junior Ben Biswas advanced to the semifinals by defeating fourth-seeded Middlebury sophomore Nate Eazor before falling to Wernink in a tight three-set battle, 6–4, 4–6, 10–6.

Sorkin was delighted at the opportunity to make amends for an early exit in last year’s tournament.

“It felt great,” Sorkin said. “After losing last year in the second round of the B flight, it’s great to win [the] A [flight]. That was a great improvement.”

Though the team’s regular season will take place in the spring, the fall schedule provides opportunities for player development. With a young squad competing at Middlebury, the team showcased plenty of fresh talent amid its large class of six first-years.

In his first tournament representing the Jumbos, unseeded first-year Isaac Gorelik won the second title of the weekend for Tufts. Gorelik upset second-seeded senior Jackson Kogan of Brandeis in two tight tiebreakers 7–6(4), 7–6(4) in the semifinals before going one better by reeling off another victory over top-seeded sophomore Rajan Vohra of Brandeis 6–1, 6–1 for the C flight singles title.

Tufts sophomore Owen Bartok, seeded fourth, advanced to the quarterfinals, where he lost 6–1, 6–3 to junior Weston Brach of Middlebury, while first-year Jack Moldenhauer just came two points short in a 7–6(5), 1–6, 12–10 loss to Kogan in the quarterfinals of the same flight.

Despite losing a close game, Moldenhauer was able to look at the positives coming out of the tournament — his first as a Jumbo.

“It was exciting,” said Moldenhauer.  “A lot of the [first-years] won matches so we’re pretty excited about what we can do, and it was the first tournament so we will get better, too.”

In the B singles flight, sophomore Carl-Herman Grant dug deep to advance to the semifinals, emerging victorious from a nail-biting quarterfinal against top-seeded first-year David Vilys of Middlebury 6–3, 4–6, 18–16.

“We were going back and forth the whole tiebreak,” Grant said. “We both had lot of match points when we got to 12–12, 13–13,  14–14. It was basically who was lucky enough to get the ball in. I got more lucky than him, and I won. [Middlebury] was getting into it, we were getting into it. It was fun.”

Grant eventually lost to sophomore Anupreeth Coramutla of Brandeis in the following round in yet another close three-setter, 4–6, 6–2, 10–3.

In the D singles flight, second-seeded sophomore Niko Hereford battled back from a set down in the first round and quarterfinals before yielding to senior Tyler Ng of Brandeis in the semifinals 6–3, 6–3. Fourth-seeded first-year Akash Verma was defeated in the quarterfinals of the same flight.

Hereford later revealed the mentality which allowed him to come back from falling a set behind in his two singles matches.

“I think I always have been somewhat of a slow starter in singles,” Hereford said. “When I get more comfortable out there and play his weaknesses and play my strengths, it helps me get settled. I’ll be out there as long as it takes. I think that Middlebury being the first fall tournament of this year means everyone is super excited to be there and everyone is super excited to compete. Like all my teammates, I wanted to go out there and try to put out a great first tournament for Tufts and myself.”

In doubles, Grant and Sorkin’s high level of play in singles continued to carry over in the A flight. The Tufts duo defeated tough teams from Middlebury and RPI before losing to eventual champions Kogan and Brandeis first-year Adam Tzeng in the semifinals 8–5.

The team also continued to make deep runs in the B doubles flight, as junior Zach Shaff and Moldenhauer broke through to the semifinals where they lost 8–5 to Brandeis’ sophomore duo of Rajan Vohra and Nikhil Das of Brandeis. On the other side of the draw, the fourth-seeded pair of Hereford and Gorelik fell in the quarterfinals to sophomore Brian Niguidula and first-year Eddie Wu of RPI, 9–7.

Reflecting on his team’s performances in the opening tournament, Grant said he looks forward to the season to come.

“We’re really, really confident,” Grant said. “We only have one senior, so it looks good for the future, for [first-years] just coming into college who did so well. The team’s performance is much better than we’ve done in the last few years, and most of our team was deep in the draw on Sunday — Boris winning the A draw, Issac winning the C draw. [In] doubles we should have done better, that was a little disappointing, but [in] singles [we got] positive vibes.”

 In two weeks, Tufts will return to Middlebury for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Regional Championships.