Bulldogs Edge St. John’s in Marathon Finish

Ziqi Wang. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Ziqi Wang. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Cheng, Z. Wang Win in Three Sets to Lift Yale Past St. John's, 4-3

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – In its final match before the start of the Ivy League season next weekend, the Yale men's tennis team hosted regional opponent St. John's on Saturday. The Elis came into the match knowing that St. John's would be tough to beat across the board, given the Red Storm's 11-4 overall record and quality lineup. Still, in what turned out to be a marathon finish, the Bulldogs came back from an early deficit to edge St. John's 4-3 and thrill the home crowd. Among several other top performers, Yale's Ryan Cheng and Ziqi Wang pushed the team across the finish line with a pair of clutch three-set singles victories.

Saturday's clash began with doubles play, and the opposition established themselves right away. At the No. 2 position, St. John's Alex Roszkowski and Dusan Vukicevic proved too strong in a 6-2 victory; not long after, the Red Storm capitalized on its momentum when No. 3 team Andrei Crapcenko and Daniel Skripnik escaped downed Yale's Wang and Andrew Heller, 6-3. After St. John's clinched the doubles point, senior duo Fedor Andrienko and Stefan Doehler were forced to cut their match short at the No. 1 spot.

Following a disappointing performance in doubles, the Bulldogs bounced back in singles. At the No. 1 spot, sophomore Dylan King cruised past St. John's Luka Sucevic 6-3, 6-2 to improve his record to an impressive 8-2 in his last ten singles matches; if he can carry some momentum into the Ivy League season, King will expect to earn results against the best singles players in the conference. Like King, Yale's Andrienko also notched a straight-set victory on Saturday, dictating play in a 6-2, 6-3 performance over St. John's Skripnik at the No. 5 spot. However, St. John's would soon level the match score when Crapcenko edged Doehler at the No. 3 position. 

With the score tied at 2-2, the remaining three singles matches all reached critical third sets. At No. 2 singles, Yale's Heller fell just short of a remarkable comeback in a 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 loss to St. John's Alan Aguilera Nunez. At the same time, Yale's Cheng was able to hold off a comeback from St. John's No. 6 player Igor Maslov, as the Bulldog held on to win 6-3, 6-7, 6-2; this result represented a huge confidence booster for Cheng, who has been kept out of action since January with injury. If he can return to the lineup at full strength in time for the Ivy League season, he will likely be a major contributor.

Ultimately, pressure fell on Yale senior Ziqi Wang to break the 3-3 deadlock and clinch the match with a win at No. 4 singles. Wang's opponent, Dusan Vukicevic, seized the upper hand early on by winning the first set 7-5; however, the Bulldog rallied to take the second set 7-6 and push the ensuing third set to a score of 5-5. In a high-pressure situation that brought the best out of both players, it was the Bulldog who ended up taking the set 7-5 after breaking serve and delivering an ace on the final point of the match. The senior's clutch performance on Saturday extended his recent run of form and improved his record to 4-1 in his last five singles matches. 

Saturday's gutsy victory over one of the top teams in the Northeast Region will give the Bulldogs confidence heading into the Ivy League portion of their schedule. If Yale can continue to perform at such a high level, conference glory may be within grasp; the team has already shown its mettle with a win over Brown earlier in the spring. The Elis' next test – the first action of the Ivy League season – will be a pair of home matches against Dartmouth and Harvard this coming weekend.

Report by Cameron Ferguson '18, Yale Sports Publicity

(As an aside, this my final report on Yale men's tennis. It has truly been an honor watching the team grow over the past four years, and I wish them the best going forward.)

 

FULL MATCH RESULTS – Yale 4, St. John's 3

 Position

 Yale University

 St. John's University

 Winner

 Score

 #1 Singles

 Dylan King

 Luka Sucevic

 Yale University

 6-3, 6-2

 #2 Singles

 Andrew Heller

 Alan Aguilera Nunez

 St. John's University

 6-1, 2-6, 6-4

 #3 Singles

 Stefan Doehler

 Andrei Crapcenko

 St. John's University

 7-5, 6-2

 #4 Singles

 Ziqi Wang

 Dusan Vukicevic

 Yale University

 5-7,7-6,7-5

 #5 Singles

 Fedor Andrienko

 Daniel Skripnik

 Yale University

 6-2, 6-3

 #6 Singles

 Ryan Cheng

 Igor Maslov

 Yale University

 6-3, 6-7, 6-2

 #1 Doubles

 Fedor Andrienko 
 Stefan Doehler

 Luka Sucevic 
 Alan Aguilera Nunez

 Unfinished

 DNF

 #2 Doubles

 Ryan Cheng 
 Dylan King

 Alex Roszkowski 
 Dusan Vukicevic

 St. John's University

 6-2

 #3 Doubles

 Ziqi Wang 
 Andrew Heller

 Andrei Crapcenko 
 Daniel Skripnik

 St. John's University

 6-3