STARKVILLE, Miss. – A stop-and-start morning of rain delays and indoor/outdoor decisions did not phase the No. 27 Harvard men's tennis, as the Crimson coolly collected four singles wins to polish off No. 63 Samford in the opening round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament Friday. The win allows Harvard to advance to the second round where it will face the winner of the No. 10 Mississippi State/Austin Peay match.
The victory marks the second straight season Harvard has collected a win in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Last year in Gainesville, Fla., Harvard took down Virginia Tech, 4-2. The Crimson ups its all-time NCAA record to 15-21 with the victory over Samford.
The match began with singles and Harvard's top two players, Denis Nguyen and Shaun Chaudhuri, took the courts for the Crimson. Nguyen, facing Samford's Zac Dunkle on the top singles court, came out with a red-hot serve, holding easily and narrowly missing on a few break chances early in the first set. Returning on serve at 4-3, the sophomore finally found his break and held serve in the ensuing game to secure the first set, 6-3. Dunkle earned a break of his own midway through the second set, but Nguyen returned the favor with two more breaks and polished off the match with a 6-3, 6-4 final.
Chaudhuri, playing Elliot Barnwell on the second court, had trouble figuring out the Samford player's aggressive serve-and-volley tactics and dropped the first set quickly, 6-2. The sophomore was able to get a read on Barnwell's serves beginning early in the second, and the momentum shifted swiftly to Chaudhuri, who breezed to a 6-2 second-set win and started the third frame with a full head of steam. Harvard's No. 2 continued his relentless barrage of groundstrokes, and polished off an exhausted Barnwell, 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 to give the Crimson a commanding 2-0 lead in the match.
Senior co-captain Andy Nguyen took the court against Fares Kilani at No. 3, and had every weapon working right out of the gate, storming to a 6-1 first-set victory, just after Chaudhuri finished his three-set affair. The senior did not let the intensity dip into the second stanza, keeping his foot to the gas in a dominating 6-1, 6-2 victory, putting the Crimson within one point of the victory.
Harvard's clinching point came courtesy of sophomore Alex Steinroeder in the fourth singles position. Steinroeder used a strong and consistent first serve coupled with powerful groundstrokes to post a decisive 6-2 first-set score against Samford's Alex Sajonz. The Samford player took a 1-0 lead in the second set, but Steinroeder was able to duplicate his first stanza efforts, posting a solid 6-2, 6-2 win to clinch the shutout with for the Crimson.
No. 27 Harvard 4, No. 63 Samford 0
1. Denis Nguyen (H) def. Zac Dunkle (S), 6-3, 6-4
2. Shaun Chaudhuri (H) def. Elliot Barnwell (S), 2-6, 6-2, 6-2
3. Andy Nguyen (H) def. Fares Kilani (S), 6-1, 6-2
4. Alex Steinroeder (H) def. Alex Sajonz (S), 6-2, 6-2
5. Nicky Hu (H) vs. Austin Akers (S), 2-1, suspended