PASADENA (Sept. 30, 2018) – The Caltech men's tennis team's sophomore doubles team of Varun Shanker (Midland, Mich. / Midland Dow) and James Wei (Chappaqua, N.Y. / Horace Greeley) became the first pair of Caltech student-athletes to win an ITA regional tournament on Sunday when they fulfilled their status as the tournament's top-seeded pair and defeated Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges' top duo. The tournament marked the first taste of competitive action for new Head Coach Jason Cohen in Caltech colors and his players did not disappoint.
"This was an amazing tournament from the guys to take home the title," Cohen said. "That's not just because it was the first in Caltech history, either. The way they did it was awesome, winning four tiebreakers, saving match points in multiple matches, and facing the gauntlet of CMS teams made for a very dramatic experience."
The Beavers' sophomore duo has a history with the Stags' top doubles team, as the two players faced off against half of this year's second-seeded team at last year's men's doubles championship in Ojai. This time, Shanker and Wei reversed their fortunes and pulled out a dramatic three-set win concluding with the team's fourth tiebreaker victory of the tournament (1-6, 6-3, 7-6(6)). The Stags came out aggressive, but the three-set nature of the match allowed the Beavers to match intensity over the course of the match.
The final set proved to be the most dramatic. After a pair of holds with the Beavers serving at 4-5, the sophomore classmates saved one match point and went on to hold serve two more times to get the match to six games apiece. Caltech had two match points at 6-4 in the decisive tiebreaker, but CMS erased them with a pair of hard-fought points. At 6-6, Wei delivered with a forehand winner, allowing him and Shanker to take advantage of a great serve and forehand from Shanker to set his teammate up for an overhead winner to finish the match and make history for the Caltech men's tennis program.
"In my short time here we have talked about toughness and how we can become tougher every day," Cohen said. "These guys were tough in every match, coming through in the pressure moments by being aggressive and playing to win."
For their efforts, Shanker and Wei have earned an automatic bid to compete at the 2018 ITA Cup from Oct. 11-14 in Rome, Ga. where they will have the opportunity to test themselves against some of the top doubles teams Division III has to offer.
The sophomores were not the only members of the men's team to have Sunday success. Classmate Kevin Yu (Mason, Ohio / Cincinnati Country Day) won the men's singles 'Flight B' consolation bracket with a victory over Henry McNeal of the University of Redlands in the final. Yu entered the consolation rounds as the top-seeded player, and defeated McNeal 6-2, 6-3 to finish his weekend on a high note. As for the rest of the team, the Beavers will open the 2018 regular season on Sunday, Feb. 10 at the University of California Santa Cruz.