[img id="107680" align="left"/]Even losses can bring wins—and not just moral ones.
Even though second-year Deepak Sabada lost his first-round match at the NCAA Men’s Individual Championships, the Maroons will benefit in the long run.
Trinity University’s Aaron Skinner, also a second-year, defeated Sabada 3–6, 6–1, 6–0 yesterday in Kalamazoo, MI.
“I thought I competed well,” Sabada said. “The score doesn’t reflect it, but I had chances to win the second set but let them slip away a bit.”
After unseeded Sabada commanded and won the first set 6–3 in the round of 32, No. 8-seeded Skinner figured him out.
“I served extremely well in the first set and that propelled me into winning the first set,” Sabada said. “At the beginning of the second set I had opportunities to go up 3–0 but didn’t convert my opportunities and instead went down 3–0. That gave him a lot of confidence for the rest of the match and he ran away with it a bit from there.”
Playing No. 1 singles for the Maroons this season, Sabada entered the NCAA Championships match ranked No. 4 in the Central Region with a 15–5 record.
This young Chicago team ended the season with a 14–5 record—not a bad finish for a squad boasting a starting lineup dominated by underclassmen. In addition, the South Siders are only losing one fourth-year in Harrison Abrams (No. 6 singles).
That being said, the Maroons will have most of their firepower returning next season, and Sabada merely competing at NCAAs will not only give him more experience, but he will also be better equipped to lead the team even more so than this year.
“Deepak was definitely a team leader,” second-year Ankur Bhargava said. “He was quiet in his actions, but the team followed him. Everybody on our team looked up to him as he was by far our best player.”
On top of No. 1 singles, Sabada led the doubles charge for Chicago, competing on the No. 1 court alongside third-year Krishna Ravella for most of the season.
“Playing doubles with Deepak this year was great,” Ravella said. “It’s always nice to have a partner that you’re entirely confident in to make any shot in the book at any given time during a match, and Deepak was definitely that type of partner.”
Sabada and Ravella concluded the spring with a record of 8–4 together.
At the UAAs a few weeks ago, the South Siders fell in their first match but regained their balance to win the next two, finishing at fifth place in the conference. They will definitely have a good shot at the top four next year.
“I’m really excited for next season,” Bhargava said. “We have a strong recruiting class coming in who will hopefully bring a lot of energy and charisma to the team. We are losing a great senior [Abrams], but hopefully we’ll still be a strong team.”
At times, Chicago played far better than the fifth-best team in the conference, too. From February 16 to March 28, they won 10 straight matches. No. 30 Chicago also played No. 10 Wash U tough on April 13, losing 6–3.
“We played Wash U extremely close this year and could have won the match, and they made the semis of NCAAs,” Sabada said. “We are losing some key parts but I feel with the talent we have and the talent coming in we will be able to achieve our goals next year.”
Sabada and the Maroons will enter next season with confidence, hoping to make the tournament just like their top player did this season.
“I’m hoping [for us to] excel even more than this year and boost our way into the NCAA tournament at the end of the year,” Bhargava said.