Thursday, February 2, 2023

MSU men's tennis defeats Brown and Bellarmine in doubleheader

January 22, 2023
<p>Senior Katsuki Matsuno winds up for a serve in doubles match with freshman David Saye (6-4) on Jan. 21, 2023.</p>

Senior Katsuki Matsuno winds up for a serve in doubles match with freshman David Saye (6-4) on Jan. 21, 2023.

Photo by Jonah Brown | The State News

The Michigan State men’s tennis team earned its first two victories of the season over Brown and Bellarmine as part of a doubleheader on Saturday.

The Brown Bears served as the Spartans' first opponent, with MSU taking the match 4-1.

As the first set of doubles ensued, MSU's fifth year Anthony Pero and junior Reed Crocker got off to a great start against Brown's junior Chun Lam and senior Niraj Komatineni. With noticeable chemistry between the two, they took turns igniting the crowd amidst their sets.

Lam and Komatineni were quick to respond when Pero and Reed started to get comfortable, playing a favorable game of catchup with momentum in full swing.

Pero and Reed were once again able to find their touch and lengthen the lead. Komatineni started to put extra heat on his serves and Lam was a true facilitator, cleaning up anything that happened after Kometineni served.

The duo ultimately took the win for the Spartans 6-4.

Pero and Reed had evident team chemistry that could be seen throughout the match.

“Reed can play with anybody, you’ll have great chemistry with him anywhere,” Pero said. “Lot of jokes, lot of smiling, you got to have fun out there.”

Additionally, the Spartans were able to run away with another doubles win with freshman David Saye and senior Katsuki Matsuno leading the charge. Saye and Matsuno also finished with a 6-4 victory.

Ruining the chances of a Spartan blowout, freshman Noah Hernandez and sophomore Alex Finkelstein were able to get the Bears on the scoreboard, defeating MSU sophomore Max Sheldon and junior Graydon Lair 6-3. Nonetheless, MSU went into the singles competition with an upper hand and audible approval from the fans in attendance.

The first match of singles had Pero in the spotlight yet again, winning both of his sets against Finkelstein 6-4. Yet he still noted improvements that could have been made.

“I served the second set really well, stayed level-headed, especially when I had six break points in the second set and I didn’t get any of them,” Pero said.  “I didn’t make enough returns in the first set, and obviously capitalizing on those break points, not being loose with my returns and last balls.”

MSU's Saye was able to pull out both wins of his two singles sets versus Alex Koong 6-4 and 6-1. Saye was soon followed by junior Luke Baylis with a fellow Spartan win against sophomore Oliver Worth.

Despite a sure Spartan victory in the works, the Bears were able to get on the scoreboard with one win from Niraj Kometineni who prevailed in both of his sets against Lair.

The Spartans had little time to recover following their victory over Brown as they took on the Bellarmine Knights less than two hours later. Nevertheless, they started on the right foot and never looked back, winning 5-2.

After earning the doubles point, MSU went 4-2 in singles and clinched its second victory of the day.

This win moved the Spartans to 2-2 on the season. For first-year Head Men's Tennis Coach Harry Jadun, Saturday’s victories signified the first of his young coaching career. He said it was difficult for him to sit back and appreciate the moment, but special nonetheless.

“A lot of my friends and family came out, so it was definitely emotional coaching in front of them,” Jadun said. “The outpour from the community has been great.”

The match began with MSU winning the doubles point thanks to stellar performances from Pero and Crocker once. again. The tandem controlled its counterpart from the match’s outset, finishing with a 6-2 win. Likewise, Baylis and Lair emerged victorious 6-2, officially awarding the doubles point to the Spartans.

Crocker said his partner’s prowess when returning serves has motivated him to follow suit. 

“(Pero) is a lot better returning than me,” Crocker said with a laugh. “I like to get inspired by him to make my returns better.”

Jadun said the doubles showed great improvement and being a great doubles team is an area of emphasis for him.

“Right now, we’re 3-1 on the doubles point this year, which is a good spot to be in,” Jadun said.

In the singles department, Sheldon was a bright spot. His 6-0 and 6-2 victories set the tone, while Baylis, Crocker and Matsuno also won their matches for the Spartans.

After Crocker won the first set, his opponent sent the match to a tiebreaker. He was able to come out on top, winning the tiebreaker 10-5. 

According to Crocker, a key component to his grind-it-out singles win was his physical and mental fortitude, built by arduous practice sessions.

“I know what we’ve done in practices, how hard they are, how long we go for,” Crocker said. “I just know I can outlast (opponents) mentally and physically.”

With a lot of the season left to play and four matches behind this team, Jadun said he’s still looking for a collective team effort.

“We just haven’t put together a complete team effort where we have six guys on all six courts digging in and staying in it early,” Jadun said. 

Jadun also said getting everybody on the same page from a competition and effort standpoint will help the Spartans defeat great teams and end the season how they want to.

MSU’s men's tennis team will be back in action next Saturday the 28, in Tuscaloosa against Alabama at noon.

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