Princeton Men’s Tennis co-hosted the Ivy-Plus Invitational with Penn from Sept. 23 to Sept. 25, bringing in players from each of the eight Ivy League schools in addition to Drexel, University of Tennessee, Marist University, SUNY Buffalo, Penn State, St. John’s, Wisconsin, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Bryant.
Taking home a total of 23 singles wins and 9 doubles wins over three days of match play, with only 20 singles losses and 7 doubles losses, the team had some standout performances to be proud of.
Freshman Payton Holden emerged as an asset for Princeton, winning his doubles flight with sophomore Jimmy Wasserman at the Penn site after a crucial 9-7 win against Penn State in the finals. Holden also placed third in his singles draw with a 5-7, 6-4, 10-4 win over a seasoned Cornell player.
“Chris Vrabel [Cornell ‘17] is a pretty tough player. He played No. 4 [singles] last year, and [this year] Payton came back from a set down to win against him which was awesome as a freshman,” said Assistant Coach Damian Hume.
Holden said, “Coach Damian was a huge help in my singles match and gave me tips that helped me win it in a tiebreaker. I focused on playing more conservatively and trying to reduce my errors. As long as I made the ball and played more tactically it helped me win a lot of key points and big situations that changed the momentum of the match.”
“It’s really nice to start off strong, because a big worry for incoming freshmen is that maybe you don’t belong, so beating older players on other teams is a big confidence booster overall,” he added.
Holden’s partner Wasserman also had a successful weekend and went 3-1 in singles, clinching the finals of the singles consolation 6-3, 7-5 against Bryant.
Wasserman credits his success to “being relaxed, having fun, and going for my shots.”
Over at the Princeton site, junior Kial Kaiser advanced the farthest in the singles draw out of any of his teammates, reaching the finals with three three wins before he had to pull out due to injury.
Kaiser demonstrated his tenacity and grit in his semifinal match against Harvard, fighting off three match points to win 6-0, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3). His performance under pressure helped swing the match’s momentum his way.
“One thing our coach has been stressing is mental toughness and I’ve been working on reducing the negative emotion I show on court. Instead of losing a couple games in a row because things are going bad, I’ll only lose a couple of points,” Kaiser said.
Kaiser went on to play doubles with junior Diego Vives, suffering a disappointing 8-7 loss in the first round to St. John’s despite reaching three match points.
Vives, who played No. 1 for the team last year, said, “I think the first match is always tough. We have a lot of room to improve but we’re in a good position and the guys are motivated. Everybody is working hard so we’re going to be ready for the spring which is when we play as a team.”
“Usually when the players come in the beginning of the season they’re a little rusty and the first tournament is about dusting off cobwebs a bit. More matches for the guys will be helpful for us and what we need to work on,” Coach Hume added.
Since the team did not graduate any members from the starting lineup last season, it is looking to develop its chemistry and integrate its three freshmen into a deep lineup.
“The freshmen bring great attitude and intensity, so it’s about incorporating them into what the older guys are trying to do. The freshmen have a great perspective and can add a ton, so once we get that to click, the sky’s the limit,” new Volunteer Assistant Coach Ian Van Cott said.
Hoping to improve and build upon the momentum from the Ivy-Plus Invitational, the team will send three players to the Men’s All-American Championships in Tulsa, Okla. this weekend.
Junior Luke Gamble and senior Alex Day, a formidable team ranked N0. 21 in the nation, will be playing the main draw of doubles before going on to play qualifying singles along with Vives.
Vives said , “It’s the toughest tournament nationally in the fall for college tennis with great competition. I’ve been playing a lot of the players there since juniors, so I’m excited. It’s going to be a good opportunity to get good wins and experiences.”