CLAREMONT, Calif. (May 24, 2018) – Caltech men's tennis freshmen Varun Shanker (Midland, Mich. / Midland Dow) and James Wei (Chappaqua, N.Y. / Horace Greeley) rallied to claim a three-set victory and earn All-America status as the program's first representatives at the NCAA Championships.
The record-setting duo shook off some early nerves to dominate the second set against Christopher Newport University's top doubles pairing and outlasted their foes in the decisive third to advance to the quarterfinals, where they nearly took the tournament's top-seeded tandem from Middlebury College to a third set in an eventual 1-6, 6-7 (3) defeat.
CNU's team picked up an early break and held on for a 6-4 victory in the first set, but Shanker and Wei found their composure to record an early break of their own in a quick 6-1 second set. After a back-and-forth first eight games in the third set, the Beavers held serve to lead 5-4 and finally came through with another break to seal the historic win.
Shanker and Wei came back the next day to face the biggest challenge of their young careers in Lubomir Cuba and Kyle Shlanger, who had just led Middlebury to the team national championship fewer than 48 hours prior. The Northeast upperclassmen jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead and cruised to victory in the first set, although the Beavers had an early chance at break point but were unable to capitalize. The rookies threatened to break Middlebury's serve early in the set and once again were broken themselves, but refused to concede and finally came through to break back on serve at 4-4. The tide looked to be turning Caltech's way with a pair of chances to clinch the set at 5-4 and 6-5, but Middlebury came up with huge points on both occasions and carried the momentum through to the tiebreak win to clinch the match.