September – December.
Fall season is pretty much the build-up for spring. At these times, the key focus is to work on one’s game––whether it’s targeting certain weaknesses or making changes to some techniques––as well as conditioning. A lot of time is also spent in the gym and on the tracks.
Every now and then, there would be several competitions during the fall, though we play as individuals or doubles pairs, instead of as a team. Basically, we only travel to invitation tournaments as a team but we play as individuals. Some of the ones I have played at include Texas A&M, Georgia, William & Mary, Princeton, and Yale.
This season is also a chance for coaches to experiment doubles pairings, in preparation for the spring season. It’s also a time for them to figure out the singles lineup in the spring, when the team season starts in January.
January – Late March
Fast forward to January post-winter break, we kick start the dual season with an invitation team tournament at home. We usually have 2-3 teams fly into Cambridge so we play against each other. This first part of the season is spent playing against teams outside of the Ivy League. Back then, I had the luxury to travel and play against some of the best teams in the nation––including Oklahoma, UC Berkeley, Northwestern, TCU, University of Minnesota.
What I enjoy about this part of the season is getting to compete with teams from all across the nation. At the same time, based on the feedback from our matches, we continue to fine-tune our games in preparation for the Ivy League season.
This eventually wraps up with our spring break trip. Every year we would spend about 10 days in San Diego to participate in an invitational tournament co-hosted by University of San Diego and San Diego State University.
We all love this trip and the tournament, mainly because we get to escape the brutal winter on the East Coast and play tennis outdoors after almost spending 6 months indoors. We would stay at host families as well as getting some downtime from school and tennis to spend by the beach!
Late March – April
At long last––Ivy League season is finally here! By this time, we would be playing against our rivals for the Ivy League crown, as well as an automatic bid to the season finale: the NCAA Team Championships. This is the most crucial part of the season that we have worked hard all year for.
(Fun fact: I was lucky enough to be able to take home the Ivy League championships as early as during my freshman year!)
It might almost be summer, but the season is still very much on for the top performing teams in the U.S. Now it’s time for the NCAA Championships! As I’ve mentioned you get an automatic bid here if your team wins in your conference. If not, the highest ranked teams in the NCAAs will take the remaining spots to make up 64 teams in the bracket.
The Harvard men’s team qualified for the championships in 3 out of 4 years that I was there and part of it all. In two of these occasions, we even it into the second round during championships. What an experience it is to compete with the best teams in the national for the national crown!
So yes, this is pretty much how a whole season looks like. By the end of it all, most of us would have played so much tennis throughout the year that we usually opt to take a few weeks off. That is, before training hard again over the summer and preparing for––you guessed it––a brand new season!
It’s quite some exciting stuff, I tell you.