Round of 16 loss concludes disappointing outdoor season for No. 12 men’s tennis

| Managing Sports Editor

Senior Gaurav Singh was named to the all-UAA first team for doubles. (Bri Nitsberg | Student Life)

When the NCAA announced that the final rounds of the Division III tennis championships were going to be held in St. Louis for the first time since 2007, it gave the Washington University men’s tennis team a special opportunity: competing for a national championship in Forest Park, just a short walk away from WashU’s Danforth campus. Unfortunately for the Bears, the men’s tennis team didn’t get that chance.

On May 11, the Bears squad, which entered the tournament ranked 12th in the nation, was bounced from the competition by No. 2 University of Chicago in the Round of 16. The loss meant the Bears’ season ended before the quarterfinal round for the first time since 2002. Though three individuals — senior Jared Phillips in singles and the pair of sophomore Colin Fox and senior Gaurav Singh in doubles — earned the chance to compete against the nation’s best in Forest Park, the rest of the team’s season came to an end just short of the final week.

Phillips, the nation’s No. 24 singles player, won his first set in the singles portion against No. 12 Michael Melnikov from Swarthmore College, but fell in the last two sets to lose the match. Singh and Fox, entering as the 10th-best doubles seed, also fell in the first round. They lost 6-1, 6-4 to the University of Mary Washington’s No. 15 team. 

The team’s loss to Chicago marked a disappointing end to an outdoor season that began with a lot of promise but hit several bumps in the road throughout the spring. At the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Indoor Championships in February, the Bears went on an impressive run, beating then No. 1 Case Western Reserve University before finishing second with a loss to Emory University in the finals.

In the outdoor season, the Bears started out 2-1 but lost three out of five matches during a Spring Break trip to California. From there, the Bears went 3-4 during the final seven matches of their regular season, but ended on a high note with a victory over Division II McKendree University.

WashU finished fourth at the University Athletic Association (UAA) tournament in late April. After beating No. 25 Carnegie Mellon University, they were knocked out in the semifinals by Chicago and lost the third-place match to No. 5 Emory University. 

After earning a first-round bye, the Bears bounced back to defeat No. 26 North Central College  5-1 in the second round of the NCAA tournament. After winning two out of three doubles matches, the Bears rode a strong singles performance to victory, as Phillips, sophomore Colin Scruggs, and Singh won the Top 3 singles matches to earn a convincing first-round victory.

With a trip back to St. Louis on the line, however, the Bears ran into a familiar foe in the Round of 16. Chicago, who had already beaten the Bears twice — 6-3 during the regular season and 5-2 in the UAA semifinal — hosted the regional and swept the Bears 5-0 to punch their ticket in the quarterfinals. Chicago would go on to win their second national championship in the last three seasons.

The team ended the season with a 13-12 record, just above .500. The 13-win mark is their lowest since finishing 12-6 in 2002. 

Though the Bears struggled at times, there were some major highs throughout the season, including the impressive run at indoor nationals and first-round victories in both the UAA and NCAA tournaments. The Bears also celebrated their five seniors — Phillips, Singh, Jeremy Ouyang, Henri Ohl, and Akshay Saluja — with an 8-1 victory over Principia College on their Senior Day, April 8. Though they will be without some of the key players of this year’s team, next year’s squad has a young core to build around and will look to compete alongside the nation’s best once again next season.

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