The Maroons are making a habit of beating higher-ranked opponents. They beat their second in as many weeks on Sunday, defeating 27th-ranked Denison with a score of 6–3.
Chicago got off to a disappointing start as second-year Deepak Sabada and third-year Krishna Ravella lost their No. 1 doubles match, 9–8 (7–3), but the Maroons were able to take some encouragement from a hard-fought contest.
First-year Neil Karandikar and second-year Ankur Bhargava helped Chicago bounce back with an 8–3 win at No. 2 before first-years Gordon Zhang and Jake Crawford won 8–5 in the No. 3 spot.
“As a team, we had a very dominant performance,” Bhargava said. “It all started in doubles, where we dominated at positions two and three and had a great opportunity to win at one.”
On the back of those two doubles victories, Chicago was able to secure wins at Nos. 1 and 2 singles. Sabada earned a comfortable 6–1, 6–2 win at number one and Bhargava overcame an uncomfortable first set to win 7–6 (7–2), 6–2 at No. 2.
Bhargava attributed his improvement in the second set to more clinical play on game and set points.
“Overall, I feel like I am playing very well in singles,” he said. “In my match today, I struggled in closing out games; it took me seven set points before I was able to win the first set, which is why the score was very tight. In the second set, I was able to convert all my opportunities, which made it a little bit easier to separate myself from my opponent.”
The Maroons suffered their only two singles losses at Nos. 3 and 4. Crawford fell to Denison’s Casey Cempre, 3–6, 6–4, 6–2, and at No. 3 third-year Alexander Golovin lost on a super tiebreak, 6–7, 6–4, 1–0 (10–6).
With Chicago leading 4–3 after doubles play and four singles matches, there was still a lot to play for in the final two singles matches of the day. Zhang was able to win the first with relative ease, 6–3, 6–3. Fourth-year Harrison Abrams had a tougher match, but ended up with a 4–6, 6–3, 6–2 win to secure a 6–3 overall victory for the Maroons.
The significance of this win was not lost on Chicago’s players, who are now on a three-match winning streak.
“This was a great win for our team especially since we were considered the underdogs on paper. We came out and showed how the rankings do not truly represent how good we are,” Bhargava said. “We are fired up by our past few wins and are hoping to continue to keep our streak going.”
The Maroons can make it three wins in their last three matches over higher-ranked opposition when they face No. 28 DePauw in two weeks time. But they are determined not to allow those rankings to become an unwanted distraction.
“It was definitely an important win [against Denison],” Sabada said, “but as a team we are just focused on winning the next match and aren’t too concerned about sending a message.”
Chicago plays next on March 9 in Greencastle, IN, where they will face DePauw and Earlham.