Last week, three UR students became Intercollegiate Tennis Association, or ITA, regional champions in singles and doubles. As a prize, senior Partha Bhattacharya and freshman teammates Thanos Kantarelis and Eric Hansen will compete in the ITA Nationals in Florida next week.Bhattacharya survived through five grueling matches before reaching the finals. With his athletic ability, he fought through his opponents with his powerful serves and hustle shots. He was consistent throughout all his matches, wearing down his opponents one by one. He even faced junior Eric Prince and senior Avinash Reddy, two fellow Yellowjackets, during the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. Reddy gave Bhattacharya a good fight, winning a second set tiebreaker. The final score between the two was 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3.When asked about the secret to his success, Bhattacharya said, “I really don’t know. My opponents seemed to keep on messing up at crucial times. I guess I just took advantage of that.”Of course, winning is no stranger to Bhattacharya, – he won the ITA Regional doubles championship last year. Unlike last year, he has more confidence to win the nationals. With his newly developed buoyancy, he and Coach Anna Khalvina are sure that he will be phenomenal in the nationals.”He loves to compete and does not give up,” Head Coach Khalvina said. “His tennis game is developing as he gains match experience and learns how to best use his speed and athleticism. Winning the ITAs should help boost his confidence for the rest of the year and propel him to set higher goals.”Nevertheless, Bhattacharya physically struggled through his matches, especially in the last one with Peter Pine of Hobart and William Smith colleges, where he suffered severe muscle cramps halfway in the match. After surviving to win a 9-7 tiebreaker in the first set, he lost the second set 4-6. However, through his consistency and athleticism, Bhattacharya swept his opponent 6-0 in the third set to become ITA Regionals singles champion.Kantarelis and Hansen made a comparable achievement, becoming the ITA Regional doubles champions. It is surprising for freshmen to win a Regional, particularly because of their lack of experience. The duo defied convention on their way to college sports prestige.The two work well together – Kantarelis makes incredible serves and Hansen makes high-quality volleys and returns. The team performed like no other. Down match point at 7-4 in the second round, they were on the brink of losing their chance in going to the Sunshine State. One more game and they would have been gone, but they did not give up. Through resilience, they came back by winning five straight games. In the end, the two easily defeated their Rochester Institute of Technology opponent 8-4.”Eric and I just played solid tennis throughout the tournament and didn’t let the fact that our opponents were seeded or that we were down in a couple of matches intimidate us,” Kantarelis said.With newfound confidence, Hansen expects more success throughout the year, especially in the spring.”We all understand that our team has the opportunity to reach very high levels this year,” Hansen said. “We are motivated to make it happen, and hopefully our hard work will translate into success in the team ITA tournament in the spring.”The surprising freshmen are also prescient in the classroom. Hansen is a Rapid Entry to Medical School student who is taking many challenging courses such as Quest Organic Chemistry. Kantarelis is also taking advanced courses including Microeconomics. Outside the classroom, they are tennis champions. Inside the classroom, they are excellent students.Others have taken notice of the Yellowjackets’ success.Last week, all three Yellowjackets were named Athletes of the Week by the University Athletic Association. Moreover, Bhattacharya was named as one of the Male Athletes of the Week for Rochester Area College Athletics.Although preparing for the tournament is a daunting task, the trio remained lighthearted about the experience. For example,when asked what his plans were if the doubles team wins the ITA national championship, Kantarelis enthusiastically replied, “I’m going to Disneyland!”Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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