The University Daily Since 1873 Updated: Sunday, November 13, 2005 11:26 PM 

Men's Tennis Players Flourish at Open

Published On Tuesday, February 20, 2007  12:19 AM
Great Scott!

Co-captain Scott Denenberg had outstanding results in the singles draw of the Harvard Open Tournament, reaching the semifinals before dropping a contest in straight sets to No. 1 seed Ville Liukko.
The Harvard men's tennis team hosted the Harvard Open Tournament and its members posted impressive individual results at the Murr Center this weekend.

Three Crimson players reached the quarterfinals and co-captain Scott Denenberg advanced to the semifinals in a tournament fielding 47 singles players and 16 doubles teams, ranging from high-school students to college graduates to young professionals.

Denenberg mounted an overall record of 3-1 at the Open before losing a tough match against No. 1 seed Ville Liukko, who was once ranked 117th in the world. The No. 4 seed got down early in the first set against the defending tournament champion and eventual runner-up but appeared rejuvenated in the second set, opening with two winners and an ace.

Despite hitting some hard balls, Denenberg could not counter Liukko's shot selection, losing 6-1, 6-1.

"It's not so much nerves, but playing someone that good," Denenberg said. "Maybe my movement was a little sluggish, but playing someone at that level makes you over-hit balls. But that's what Federer does right? He makes you hit at his level."

Both Denenberg and Crimson head coach Dave Fish '72 see the match and the tournament as an opportunity for improvement before Ivy League season play begins in April.

"You need to have someone talented beat you so that you can see how to hit the ball at the next level," Fish said. "That's the beauty of a tournament like this. It's not just playing college players who might lose their mind over the smallest thing, but playing guys that are accomplished, know how to keep their mind focused, and know how to deal with something that's disappointing and then come back and play."

Before Denenberg could move to the semifinals, he had to emerge victorious from an all-Harvard quarterfinal against teammate Ashwin Kumar. It took just one break for Denenberg to secure the first set 6-3 against his teammate. Despite remaining on serve early in the second set, Kumar slowed at 4-3, allowing Denenberg to capture the semifinal spot with one more break of service to win the match 6-3, 6-3.

"We play each other almost everyday," Denenberg said, "so it's just a matter of who plays a little better that particular day."

In the other half of the draw, Dan Nguyen struggled to match the speed of his opponent, No. 2 seed and eventual tournament champion Rupesh Roy, a 2007 Australian Open junior doubles finalist. Nguyen lost his first set, 6-0, but late in the second set, a clip of the net and a winner down the line from Nguyen allowed for a break back at 4-3.

"Dan did great in the second set; they were going toe-to-toe," Fish said. "Dan played some great points. His confidence is better; it's just getting up to that speed."

Although Nguyen moved quickly through his first two matches, he saw the end of his eight-match winning streak in the quarterfinals, losing 6-0, 6-3.

Rounding out the Harvard-dominated quarterfinals, No. 3 seed Chris Clayton dropped a tough first set, 6-4. Clayton quickly regrouped, breaking his opponent early in the second set, but failed to convert a game point at 6-5 that would have forced a tiebreak.

"In the second set, I warmed up," Clayton said. "I had the lead for a while, but then he started serving better and I missed a lot of first serves. He had an aggressive game style that kept me on the defense most of the time."

After an impressive variety of shots from both players, Clayton lost 6-4, 7-5 to University of Virginia graduate Brian Hunter.

Among other Crimson players in the tournament, co-captain Gideon Valkin swept into the third round before losing 6-3, 6-4; freshman Michael Hayes and Junior Gareth Doran were eliminated in the second round; and sophomore Michael Kalfayan lost his opening match.

In the final yesterday, the second-seeded Roy outlasted Liukko to win 2-6, 6-3, 6-0. Liukko, who had taught tennis for two hours earlier in the morning, took the first set with ease and built a 3-2 lead in the second set when he ran out of steam. Roy took advantage of his fresh legs and swept the final ten games of the match.

Roy also took the doubles championship, teaming with his coach Johan Durant to beat former world No. 1 Don Johnson and his partner Andrew Rueb '95, 7-6, 7-6.

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