Written by: Soufiane Azargui
***19 year old Soufiane Arzagui came to Toronto from Morocco at the age of 10 and a half. Over the next 7 years, Soufiane developed as an excellent tennis player winning singles and doubles titles at the national and ITF level as well as maintaining a high academic level at Bateman High School in Burlington. After six years at the ACE tennis Academy he fulfilled his objective of receiving a scholarship to an Ivy League school, Brown University in September of 2010. Soufiane will be blogging us on a regular basis about his freshman season.***
We travelled to Ithaca this weekend to face Cornell before heading over to Columbia to try to beat the defending champs! We got blitzed in doubles, with them sweeping all three. Brandon and I lose to two beatable seniors 8-5. Then singles starts, their confidence high. But quickly, we turn things around. With me now playing at 5, I am playing a pretty dominant little lefty with a big forehand. He was probably the most popular guy on campus that day, with hundreds of frat boys in sports jackets screaming in my ear and making fun of my every wrong move. That’s ok, I’m Moroccan so we hear much worse 🙂 I take him down easy 6-1 6-4. All tied 1-1. Then freshman Sam Fife loses to a tough opponent to have them up 2-1. Senior captain Kendrick takes care of business winning 5 and 5 to equalize at 2-2. Then Brandon comes up with a big win at #3 singles 6-1 in the third. We are again one point away. Up 3-2! Then our #1 loses in a tight 6-4 third set contest to have us all tied for the third straight time. At #6, sophomore Tim Klanke is up 6-5 40-40, two points away. Might this be it!? Our first ivy win in two years, but the opponent takes it to a third set tiebreak. This match is already 4 hours long :S In the breaker, Cornell’s player out-rallies our to clinch the win 4-3, yet another heartbreaker.
Playing against a good friend Nate Gery, who is from Aurora Ontario once again was a pleasure I looked forward to. We were a little deflated but ready to bounce back in doubles. Brandon and I clinch the doubles 8-3 after senior Charlie and Sam claim the first match in doubles. We head into singles up 1-0. Nate plays Brandon, who’s out of gas. He quickly wins his match in two quick sets. Tied 1-1 once again. Freshman Sam Fife claims first ivy win at #2 singles winning 6-2 6-1. We are up 2-1!! At #1 singles, their player beats ours in two closely contested sets. All tied once again at 2-2. This is becoming all too familiar. At #6 singles, they beat us after a long three setter. Senior Kendrick Au takes care of business winning in three sets to tie us all up at 3-3. I am still playing, and my match is the decider now. I win the first set despite a 5-2 deficit and rolling my ankle :S Once momentum started shifting my way, I just rode it to a set victory. Second set, at 3-4, I let a bad call get into my head and affect me for the entire game rather than just focusing on the next point right after with my serve. He breaks and eventually holds to even up at a set a piece. Third set again for a deciding match !!!! Unbelievable. He comes out blazing, breaking me in the very first game. I think I have the break back as one of his backhands sails wide, but I get overruled! My assistant coach and teammates are outraged, the ball was clearly out, they had no business overruling a far sideline. At this point, things are getting heated between both teams. You can barely hear anything anyone is saying anymore. He holds, but then I hold. He serves up 2-1 and I break right back. We continue along this trend holding until 4-4 where he plays a near flawless game to break and in position to serve for the win. I look around, my teammates despondent. I walk over to the bench and remember a valuable lesson taught to me by Pierre Lamarche and Sue Wilson. Control your breathing because you know your opponent is nervous stepping up to the line, especially with him being a freshman. I breathe, talk briefly with my assistant coach, stand up, turn around and look at the head coach. He is in disbelief and can not digest the fact that we will 4 heartbreakers in a row. I look him in the eye and a sense of calm comes over me. I give him the most serious face I can muster and make a fist. I will not let us lose four in a row. He rushes the net on the first point, I lob over his backhand side. I pass him to go up 0/30. He serves an ace. Then, at 15/30, the match turns. He comes in pulling me wide on the backhand side, I hit an angle but it sits up too high. He volleys it down with his forehand thinking the point is over. He never recovered. I give all my might to tracking the ball down and lunge right by the side fence where all the Columbia players are prematurely cheering. Continental forehand angle on the dead run! My teammates and coaches lose it! Alumni attending lose it!!!! Egging me on to break right now. I can not describe how I felt at this moment. He is rattled and concedes the game easily after that. I hold and put the pressure right back on him. I walk over to the chair, the only person with Brown affiliation to be seated at that point. My assistant coach talks to me but all I can think is “if he was nervous last game to serve it out, imagine how he must feel to serve and stay in it. My assistant coach and I had been talking all match about hitting my forehand passing shot down the line more because he cheats over to the other side. Why not now! He comes in and I make him pay, passing shot up the line. He hits an ace, back squared at 15/15. I miss one of the only overheads I can remember missing all year!!!!!!! Everyone is shocked, 30/15. He comes in yet again, I drop it to low to his feet Pierre wouldve been proud with that one. 30/30! Then what happens next, everything went in slow motion. He comes in off a perfect low ball to my backhand, I roll a shoelace backhand angle on the line passing shot for a winner. Don’t ask how, a little luck ! 🙂 30/40, everyone is about to lose their minds including myself. He slides it out wide, I dump it short, he hits a tentative forehand up the line to mine and comes in and I say hey, why not a pass up the line like we discussed. And right when I was thinking it, my forehand directs the ball flat up the line for a clean passing shot winner and our first ivy win in two years ! 🙂 Everyone stormed the court and celebrations were wild. Everyone was jubilant 🙂 That is possibly one of the most important moments in my tennis career thus far and when I truly realized what a team sport college tennis is. We beat Columbia!!!!!!!!! It starts at one, lets keep it going against Dartmouth and Harvard next weekend 🙂