From left: Freshmen Andrew Nakhjavan, Gary Fishkin and Zack Elliott pose in the Lewis Indoor Tennis Center. These freshmen have been a key part in the men's tennis team's successful turnaround.(Courtesy of Brent Hugo and Lehigh Athletics)

Freshmen class sparks tennis win streak

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The Lehigh men’s tennis team has ignited a four-match winning streak following a 0-2 start to the season, securing a 5-2 overall record.

A large part of this turnaround can be attributed to the play of a trio of talented freshman: Zack Elliott, Gary Fishkin and Andrew Nakhjavan.

“There was definitely a big momentum shift after this weekend because we dominated both of our matches and got on the board,” Fishkin said. “It was especially good because almost everyone got a win under their belt individually, which relieves pressure.”

Elliott, a native of Willowbrook, Illinois, won three matches in a row in singles play and has a five-match win streak in doubles play so far this season

Majoring in computer science and business, Elliott has emerged as one of the young talents on the team. The freshman said he loves the camaraderie college tennis offers and uses it as motivation on the court.

“I love the fact that you basically live with your team when you’re in season,” Elliott said. “You spend multiple hours every day with your teammates and go through everything together. It makes everyone really close and makes you feel like you’re competing for something bigger than yourself.”

Elliott said he was quickly hit with the reality that Division I tennis is a different game than the one he has played in years past.

“The biggest difference in college is just the physicality of the game,” Elliott said. “You’re playing grown men instead of teenagers. Everyone is bigger, stronger and hits the ball much harder.”

His commitment to the weight room has allowed him to acclimate to the faster game. Elliott said his conditioning and aggressiveness are key to maintaining confidence on the court.

Fishkin, an engineering major from Staten Island, New York, also recognizes the heightened intensity synonymous with college play.  

“A big difference between high school and college is definitely the atmosphere,” Fishkin said. “The matches are so much more intense, and you can definitely feel it with all the cheering going on and how competitive each match is.”

In his first experience in college play, Nakhjavan won both of his matches against Stevens. Coming to Lehigh from Long Island Lutheran High School, Nakhjavan is studying business.

The freshman class has relied on senior leadership and coaching to help them make the adjustment from high school to college play. Nakhjavan attributed much of his success to the captains and head coach Wouter Hendrix.

“I’m super grateful for coach Hendrix and our captains because they have been so helpful and supportive in making the adjustment to college tennis,” Nakhjavan said. “My game has improved a lot since getting to Lehigh and I definitely credit coach Hendrix for that.”

All three of the freshman are close, living in the same room and spending hours each day together studying, socializing and exploring Lehigh’s campus. These relationships help the freshmen balance the demands of tennis, academics and social life.  

The friendships have allowed the trio to develop chemistry on the court as well, adding competitiveness to practices and matches.

The Mountain Hawks will look to extend their winning streak at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 10 as they travel to Charleston, South Carolina for their spring break matches. 

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