The Cornell men’s tennis team (4-3) squared off against both St John’s (4-1) and Fordham University (7-2) during last Sunday’s double-header at Reis Tennis Center. Starting the day with St. John’s, the Red — one of the youngest teams in the country — did not expect an easy win, according to head coach Silviu Tanasoiu.
“It was a very hard-fought battle that started with the doubles point,” Tanasoiu said. “I felt like it was one of the better doubles point that we played since the beginning of the year.”
The Red started the match strong, sweeping all three doubles points against St. John’s with identical scores of 8-6.
“We started off on a positive note going into the singles,” Tanasoiu said. “In singles, I did feel that the youth of our squad came to play a huge role at the start of the second set.”
The Red struggled against St. John’s in singles points, recording three wins from sophomore Venkat Iyer and freshmen Quoc-Daniel Nguyen and Alex Sydney, as well as three losses from freshmen Sam Fleck, Danny Riggs and Jason Luu.
“We won all of the doubles matches yesterday … which was a positive,” Fleck said. “Usually our singles is our strongest point, but our doubles was actually really good.”
A surprising singles performance came from Nguyen, who defeated Ilija Vucic, 7-5, 6-4, a player previously ranked No. 800 in the world.
“They were a tough opponent,” Tanasoiu said. “I’m happy we got the win.”
The Red immediately moved on to play Fordham, and the Rams did not hand the Red an easy victory. In singles, Tanasoiu decided to pull Fleck from the top of the lineup, sending in sophomore Evan McElwain to fill the gap. The Rams won the first two singles matches, defeating Iyer and Riggs, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 and 7-6, 6-4, respectively.
“I thought our singles performance versus Fordham wasn’t … up to our standards that we set,” Iyer said. “We got the win, which was important, but I’m sure we have plenty of stuff to work on this week.”
Wins from Nguyen, Sydney and Luu, as well as a loss from McElwain, left the Red tied with Fordham in singles points. Doubles proved once again to be the tiebreaker, with the Red sweeping the Rams in all three doubles points, 8-5, 8-3 and 8-6, respectively.
Tanasoiu, Iyer and Fleck all cited preparation as one of the key components of Sunday’s double win.
“There’s a lot more school involved than they’ve ever dealt with,” Tanasoiu said. “There’s a lot more running and a lot more drilling.”
Indeed, Tanasoiu has been conditioning the team since the fall — sending the team out to the track almost every day.
“We work hard in practice; we work hard on our fitness,” Iyer said. “We’ve had some experiences running in sub-zero temperatures … and I think that makes us mentally and physically ready to play.”
The team will need that kind of intensity when it heads over to Dartmouth to play in the ECAC Indoor Championship. The March tournament provides the Red with a chance to face off against Columbia, Harvard and other Ancient Eight teams before the Ivy League season begins.
“It’s one of the biggest events of the year for us,” Fleck said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge.”