“Each man delights in the work that suits him best.” – Homer, The Odyssey
What a pleasure it was to kick off the 2016 season at Groton. The relationship between these two teams was chronicled in last year’s writeup (which, apparently, quite a few people read), but to briefly recap: Deerfield coach emeritus Jay Morsman approached Groton coach John Conner at a tournament over fifteen years ago; that conversation turned into a friendship, a great deal of mutual respect, and many years of excellent early-season tennis.
Groton, like Deerfield, was sporting a few new faces and a few all-too-familiar ones – most notably Sam Girian, who, along with MacGregor, jumped all over our #1 doubles team, taking a 6-1 lead in the blink of an eye (and closing things out, 8-2). Fortunately, we found greater success at the second doubles spot, where the new team of Carl and Matthew went up an early break and rode their precise net play to an 8-4 win. The doubles point thus came down to rookies Alfi and Gideon at #3: they went up a break, gave it back, and traded holds to get to 6-6. Ultimately, they missed a few too many groundstrokes and came up short on some exchanges at the net, and went down 8-6.
Although we lost the doubles point, we were cautiously optimistic about our chances in singles, particularly at the bottom of the lineup. Coach Conner predicted a 4-3 finish, and little did we know just how close things would end up. Girian looked like a left-handed Djokovic on court 3, ending most points before they started. Despite a good effort from Darren, Groton was up 2-0. Fortunately, Deerfield managed to win the first set on every other court – a promising start! Unfortunately, with the exception of Matthew (who remained calm in the face of Davidoff’s energetic endeavors), everyone else lost their second set. 2-1 to Groton.
Gideon, in his first varsity match, faced a unique challenge returning exclusively underhand serves from the injured Scholl. In the third set, he did a fine job of managing his emotions, recovering from an early break to level the score and take it all the way to a tiebreaker. Despite the pressure-packed and unfamiliar circumstances, Gideon played a terrific tiebreaker; the outcome was never in doubt as he closed it out 7-2. Match score: 2-2, with three matches still unfinished.
Scott went down in the third, finally worn down by two hours of You’s penetrating groundstrokes, while Alfi caught fire at 3-4 in the third: pounding serves, scrambling around the baseline, and picking his spots to be aggressive, he held, broke, and held to close it out.
All eyes turned to Carl as the final match. Upon learning it would all come down to him, Carl turned it on, blasting his way to a 5-0 lead in the third. Both players’ superb defensive skills prolonged nearly every point, and exhaustion crept in on both sides. Although MacGregor rallied to put two games on the board (and was serving at deuce), Carl was not to be denied.
Today was a terrific high school tennis match, marked by a high level of play from both sides. Our next dual match isn’t for another 11 days, so it feels good to have a win on the board. For now, we look forward to the Kingswood tournament next weekend, which is always full of tough competition.
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Deerfield 4, Groton 3
MacGregor Beatty/Sam Girian (G) d. Scott Danforth/Darren Ho (D) 8-2
Carl Grant/Matthew Wuyan (D) d. Michael You/Nico Davidoff (G) 8-4
Aaron Jin/Andrew Lei (G) d. Alfi Auersperg/Gideon Yektai (D) 8-6
Grant (D) d. Beatty (G) 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-2
You (G) d. Danforth (D) 5-7, 6-3, 6-1
Girian (G) d. Ho (D) 6-1, 6-1
Wuyan (D) d. Davidoff (G) 6-4, 6-2
Auersperg (D) d. Jin (G) 6-2, 4-6, 6-4
Yektai (D) d. Gabe Scholl (G) 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (2)