Story by Austin Cannon
The then-No. 43 Drake men’s tennis team defeated the No. 28 Harvard Crimson, 4-1, to win the Hilton San Diego Mission Valley Spring Classic on Saturday.
The win avenged a 4-2 loss to Harvard in the 2013 Spring Classic.
For junior Ravi Ratel, Drake’s biggest win of the season wasn’t unexpected.
“We’re always going to pull off some big wins, and I think we just kept plugging away and plugging away, and now we’re finally broke through that wall. I don’t think we’ve changed anything, to be honest. I think it was just a matter of time,” Patel said.
The Bulldogs began by taking the crucial doubles point.
Senior Robin Goodman and sophomore Ben Lott earned a huge victory over the No. 6-ranked team of Denis Nguyen and Casey MacMaster, 8-5.
Patel and fellow junior Matt Frost clinched the point with an 8-7 win over Sebastian Beltrame and Christo Schultz.
Harvard was able to tie the match at 1-1 when Nguyen took down junior Alen Salibasic, 6-2, 6-0.
Lott regained the lead for the Bulldogs, downing Beltrame, 6-2, 6-3. Goodman followed by besting Shaun Chaudhuri, 6-3, 6-1.
On court No. 4, Frost was able to seal the title for Drake, battling for a three set win over Brian Yeung, 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-2.
The title helped ease the hurt from Drake’s early season losses.
“We had some losses in the indoor season that we don’t even know what happened. We just didn’t show up. We lost to Minnesota and to Oregon, and they were two matches where we felt we just didn’t show up,” Salibasic said. “It felt like a couple of screws were loose here and there. During spring break, we were able to tighten those up and cover up some weaknesses.”
Drake began the tournament on Thursday, knocking off No. 56 Princeton, 4-2.
Drake fell into a 1-0 hole after surrendering the doubles point.
Thomas Colautti and Joshua Yablon held off Frost and Patel, 8-5, and Dan Davies and Ben Quazzo outlasted Salibasic and junior Ben Mullis, 8-6.
Goodman evened the match for the Bulldogs, beating Alexander Day, 6-2, 6-1. It marked Goodman’s 100th career singles win and earned him MVC Player of the Week honors.
Yablon took down Frost to regain the lead for the Tigers, 7-6 (6), 6-2, but Drake was poised for a comeback.
Mullis evened the score again with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Florin Radu, and Patel put the Bulldogs ahead with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Augue Bloom.
Salibasic was able to secure the opening round win by winning the final two sets over Zack McCourt, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
The Bulldogs saved the dramatics for Friday’s match against Memphis.
Down 0-3, Drake won four singles matches in a row to advance past the Tigers.
After Salibasic and Frost lost, Lott was able to put Drake on the board by beating No. 94 Joe Salisbury 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-2.
Mullis made it two in a row, dispatching David O’Hare on court No. 6, 6-4, 1-6, 6-0.
Patel’s 10th consecutive singles win tied the match. He beat Ian Chadwell, 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-2.
Goodman’s 101st victory couldn’t have come at a better time. He overcame a 5-3 deficit in the third and forced a tiebreak against Tiger David O’Leary. He dominated the tiebreak, 10-2, advancing Drake to the finals against Harvard.
The match lasted nearly four-and-a-half hours, as all four of Drake’s victories went the full three sets.
After three wins over ranked competition, Drake improved to No.33 in the ITA ranking.
“Every Tuesday, I refresh the page over and over. That’s the day rankings come out. Every Tuesday, I’m just refreshing, refreshing the page to say what rankings are,” Salibasic said.
For Patel, it was a week to remember.
“It was probably the best spring break of my life.”