OJAI, Calif. (Apr. 27, 2019) – Sophomore Varun Shanker (Midland, Mich. / Midland Dow) made program history for a second consecutive year in reaching the semifinals of the 119th Ojai Tournament on Saturday morning, but the No. 22 Caltech men's tennis team crashed out of the tournament shortly after with several big chances just eluding their grasp.
Shanker became the program's first singles player to advance past the quarterfinals, which comes a year after he and classmate James Wei (Chappaqua, N.Y. / Horace Greeley) became the first doubles team to reach the event's final match. Shanker was forced to pull out a second straight three-set victory to top sixth-seeded Alexis Dimanche of Southwestern University. After dropping the first set 3-6, the draw's top seed bounced back with dominant 6-2, 6-1 decisions in the final two.
The victory earned him a shot at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges fourth-seed junior Niko Parodi, who reached the semifinals of the NCAA Championship last year and was national runner-up the year prior. The foes traded games all the way through the first set, which Parodi took in a tiebreaker, 6-7 (4). He then rode the momentum into a 6-3 second-set win to reach his third straight Ojai finals match. Earlier in the day, Parodi had also defeated junior Miha Valencic (Colleyville, Texas / Grapevine), who had put together the makings of a deep run after knocking off Pomona-Pitzer Colleges seventh-seed Josh Gearou in the first round.
Following a pair of first-round defeats in the doubles draw, the Beavers entered both doubles teams into the consolation bracket to mixed results. Seniors Zixiao Li (Coppell, Texas / Coppell) and Derik Nguyen (Anaheim, Calif. / Canyon) dropped a close contest to Occidental College's second pairing, 8-5. Shanker and Wei, meanwhile, decimated the University of California, Santa Cruz's second doubles pairing, 8-1, before dropping a tiebreaker to second-seeded Brad Cummins and Brysl Libao, allowing the University of Redlands duo to solidify their number three ranking in the West region – one spot ahead of the Caltech team.