Last weekend, Jerry Jiang ’19 and Justin Wang ’21 finished second place at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Cup Doubles Championship in Rome, Georgia. They got a ticket to the tournament after winning the ITA New England regionals in late September.
The pair won their first game by default after one of their opponents had to attend a job interview.
On the second day, Jiang and Wang beat Caltech (4-6, 6-3, 10-5), a team they had never played before. After a slow and nervous start, the pair broke their opponents on their first service game and then held on to win the second set. They started off the super tiebreak with solid serving and then further expanded their lead, never giving their opponents a chance to come back.
“It just showed this team culture,” said Jiang. “It subtly changed us to be tougher at these critical moments. It is not like ‘who hits fantastic shots,’ it is really more about who stays tougher over there.”
The duo lost 6-3, 6-3 to Emory in the finals. Jiang said they knew Emory was a strong team, and their mistake was trying to play above their level.
“We got caught up in the wrong mentality trying to play even better which just made us choose a lot of risky options,” Jiang said. “But overall, it was a great match. I think we fought hard. We tried to come back in the second set.”
What is particularly remarkable about their run is that Jiang and Wang started playing together just a few weeks ago.
“There were definitely little hiccups and struggles at the beginning, because we never played with each other. There were a lot of communications we had to improve on,” Jiang said. “We had to customize our play style in order to play better together, so we put in extra work during practices in order to do that.”
The new connection between Jiang and Wang is reflective of the seniors’ dedication to mentor younger players.
“Instead of being passive, [Jiang] is pushing me to be more active and always think about the next move instead of relying on him to win the point, like actively looking for to win points myself,” Wang said.
Jiang recognizes the importance of preserving the team’s momentum as seniors graduate, and new players join the team, especially after losing three senior players last year.
“I hope Justin can learn from this whole season, that he can gain from it and pass on to the younger guys. Because this team is all about keeping the tradition going,” said Jiang.
The strong finish at the ITA tournament as well as the rest of the team’s good performance at a Brandeis and Tufts invite last weekend are promising signs for the spring season.
“This weekend was a really good confidence booster for everyone,” said Wang. “I know all the younger guys are really pumped going into this offseason and work really hard to have a good spring. So I’m just looking forward to the next step. Fall is over, now on to the winter.”