Feb. 20, 2010
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue men's tennis team kept its unbeaten home record intact Saturday afternoon by taking down 61st-ranked Harvard 4-3 on the Basham Courts inside the Schwartz Tennis Center.
"It took a total team effort to win today," head coach Pawel Gajdzik said. "We have been looking for a significant win early in this season, and we knew that today would be an important match. Our guys are starting to realize that the hard work from the offseason and the way we played early on is starting to pay off. It shows we are headed down the right path. Today was really a story of two different teams after we weren't very aggressive in doubles."
Harvard (4-3) pulled out to an early lead by winning the doubles point. Aba Omodele-Lucien and Christo Schultz picked up an 8-2 victory at No. 1 over senior P.J. Rose and sophomore Eric Ramos. The point was clinched at No. 2, where Alistair Felton and Andy Nguyen earned an 8-4 win over senior Slavko Bijelica and sophomore Thomas Wilson. Purdue (7-1) avoided the sweep as seniors Paul Foley and Branko Kuzmanovic, playing together as a doubles duo for the first time this season, defeated Alexei Chijoff-Evans and Joshua Tchan 8-5 at No. 3.
Ramos pulled Purdue even as the match moved to singles. The Alameda, Calif., native improved to 7-1 this season in singles play when he defeated Schultz 6-4, 6-2 at No. 3. Bijelica nudged the Boilermakers ahead as he picked up a 6-2, 7-6 (5) win over Felton at No. 2. The Crimson tied the match again at No. 5, where Nguyen won 7-5, 6-3 over Foley, and jumped ahead for the final time when Chijoff-Evans earned a 7-6 (2), 6-4 win over Rose at No. 1.
The final two matches needed three sets to determine a winner and stretched the match past the four-hour mark. Wilson battled back after dropping the first set to defeat Davis Mangham 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 and even the match one more time. Kuzmanovic, playing in just his second match this season after returning from an injury, clinched the victory for Purdue with his 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 defeat of Tchan, who was ahead 4-1 in the final set.
"I just tried to keep fighting and believe that I could win," Kuzmanovic said. "It wasn't all about me, though. It was a total team effort. If the other guys hadn't won their matches, I would not have been in the position I was to get the fourth win for the team. It really was a team effort, and all of the guys deserve credit."
Purdue earned its first victory over a ranked opponent this season and is now 1-1 against nationally-ranked foes. The Boilermakers have eclipsed last season's overall win total and already have one more home win than last season's team.
"I have to give props to Branko," Gajdzik said. "He really came back strong today, and that's the kind of leadership we expect from a senior. He's very experienced and has been in those situations before, so we all trust him. We talked during a change and made a slight adjustment to his strategy. After that, he really took off. This is a great win for him and a great win for our team."
Purdue returns to action Sunday when it hosts Illinois State at noon ET. Admission to the Schwartz Tennis Center is free, and live results can be found at purduesports.com.