Ivy League play started off on a sour note for Penn men's and women's tennis, as both sides fell to rival Princeton this Saturday in their conference openers.
In a highly competitive match, the women (11-5, 0-1 Ivy) lost their opener at home to the Tigers (12-4, 1-0) by one point. The Quakers easily took the doubles point, but after winning two singles matches and then losing two, the fate of the match was left to senior Marta Kowalska, who fell to her opponent after three hard-fought sets.
Playing on the Tigers' home court in New Jersey, the men (16-6) fell to the Orange and Black (17-6, 1-0) by a score of 5-2. Last year, the men defeated Princeton in an easy 6-1 victory to open up Ivy play, but this time around, they were unable to win on key singles courts to secure the victory. The only two wins came from senior Kyle Mautner on court one and senior Dmitry Shatalin on court four.
Mautner, currently ranked No. 85 nationally, has been a huge contributor to the success of the team by providing consistent wins on the top court.
“He’s probably one of the very best players who has played at Penn for the last 10, 15 years,” Shatalin said of his teammate.
This match marked the first since early March when the two seniors have been back on the court at the same time, as Mautner had been out with pneumonia for three weeks. The Red and Blue looked to make this transition as smooth as possible to avoid breaking up team dynamics.
The usual doubles pairing of Mautner and Shatalin was split up, but the new arrangements did not serve the Red and Blue as well as they had hoped.
Shatalin and freshman Kevin Zhu took victory in their doubles match, leaving the point up to Mautner and freshman Edoardo Graziani after a court two loss. The match went to a tiebreak, where the veteran-rookie pair lost after being unable to win some key points.
The women, who played at home, were coming off an easy win against Saint John’s last weekend.
The match was sure to be difficult, as the Penn women had not defeated the Tigers in Ivy play since 2008. The visitors were ranked No. 38 in the nation, sitting four places higher than the No. 42 spot they held last year when they defeated the Red and Blue, 5-2.
After winning the doubles point, two straight-set victories from freshman Yulia Bryzgalova and senior OJ Singh, who is also a DP staffer, put the Quakers in good position to win the match, but four Penn singles losses meant that Princeton ended up victorious.
With only six games left in the collegiate careers of the seniors on both teams, a sense of urgency is looming.
“There’s a lot of nerves, there’s a lot of emotion, there’s a lot of things on the line, but we have to make sure that we stay confident and focused and play with heart rather than nerves," Shatalin said.
With plenty of time left to face off with the rest of the conference, both teams are still positioned well to make significant improvements from their finishes last year. To beat their 4-3 Ivy record from last year, the men are planning on keeping it simple.
“With Ivy play, it’s important to make sure the energy is up, follow the tactics, and execute with no fear,” Shatalin said.
The men will look to execute next weekend at home against Harvard on Saturday and Dartmouth on Sunday.
The women will head to Cambridge, Mass. on Saturday to take on the Crimson, followed by a face off with the Big Green in Hanover, N.H. on Sunday.
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