In a memorable scene from Woody Allen’s Oscar-nominated drama Match Point, protagonist Chris Wilton explains: “There are moments in a match when the ball hits the top of the net, and for a split second, it can either go forward or fall back. With a little luck, it goes forward, and you win. Or maybe it doesn’t, and you lose.”
The quote rang true in a crucial moment in sophomore Jason Magnes’ singles match on Saturday — perhaps a turning point for the Penn men’s tennis team’s season after its shutout win.
On his serve in the second set tiebreaker, Magnes hit a drop volley that his Stony Brook opponent, Francesci Ariuli, was able to run down, leading to an exchange of volleys at the net.
After a bad lob by Magnes, Ariuli hit an overhead on which Magnes barely got his racquet. The point seemed lost.
“In my head, I was already like ‘[expletive], I lost the point’ as I was hitting the shot,” Magnes said.
But the ball hit the top of the net and went over, giving Magnes the point.
He did not lose another point for the rest of the match, en route to a 7-5, 7-6 victory.
Although the team had already clinched the victory over Stony Brook, coach Nik DeVore and the team made it clear that Magnes’ match still mattered to them, as the Levy Pavilion exploded in cheering and applause.
While the 7-0 score may seem to indicate that this was another easy win for the Quakers (6-0), in reality, the match was a battle.
“It was a very competitive match and that was the first stronger team that we’ve swept,” DeVore said.
Though the Quakers escaped from earlier matches with victories despite not playing their best, they needed a team-wide effort to beat the Seawolves.
In several matches, the Red and Blue had to play from behind to earn their victories. At No. 1 doubles, Hicham Laalej and Mark Milbrandt erased a 3-0 deficit to win, 8-6. Laalej also came back in his singles match, where he was down 4-1 in the second set before winning, 6-4.
DeVore noted that the key to victory was a mental edge. He explained that the differences in the close matches were “staying positive” and a “high [level of] confidence.”
Of all the Quakers, mental toughness was particularly important for Magnes, who has struggled so far this season.
DeVore, who called Magnes “the rock” of the team for his stability during his 26-8 campaign last season, explained that Magnes has been “really hard on himself.”
“Mentally that point [in the tiebreaker] made me realize that I was putting too much pressure on myself,” Magnes explained. “It was really good to be able to smile in such a tense moment.”
If the Quakers hope to contend for an Ivy League title, they will need Magnes to provide that same consistency at the bottom of the lineup that he contributed last year.
Penn certainly hopes that the stroke of luck that guided Magnes’ shot over the net will stay with the Quakers as they begin the more difficult part of their schedule.Comments powered by Disqus
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