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Tufts Athletics | May 21, 2023

Tufts' Rishabh Sharda earns Division III NCAA men's tennis singles national crown

DIII men's tennis: 2023 singles & doubles finals
ORLANDO, FL -- For the first time in program history, a player from Tufts University's men's tennis squad has climbed to the top of the NCAA mountain, as senior Rishabh Sharda came from behind to pick up a thrilling 1-6, 6-2, 6-1 three-set victory against Williams College's Matthew Kandel in the 2023 NCAA Division III Men's Singles Championships from the United States Tennis Association (USTA) National Campus on Saturday afternoon.

It was a long grind through the week for Sharda, who becomes Tufts' first men's tennis singles NCAA champion while joining Boris Sorkin as individual national champs, as Sorkin won back-to-back ITA Cup titles in 2018-19 and 2019-2020. It was also Tufts' third all-time NCAA title in tennis for singles, as Sharda joined Julia Browne from 2010 and last year's championship from Elle Christensen in 2022 on the women's side. 

Sharda came into the match having had to play competitive tennis virtually every day for the last eight days, as he helped the Tufts men's tennis squad to a national runner-up finish through three grueling matches starting last Saturday through Tuesday evening. After a day off on Wednesday, Sharda was right back into play on Thursday with two wins which got him into the Round of 16. Sharda won a match on Friday and another in the NCAA Semifinals on Saturday to earn his right to play for the championship Sunday. 

On Sunday in very warm conditions, Williams' Matthew Kandel came out strong as he earned 69 percent of the points while earning breaks on all three of his attempts in the first stanza to take a 6-1 win over Sharda and put the pressure on the Tufts senior. As the match went along though, Sharda would put the pressure back on Kandel with his aggressive style of play, moving Kandel from side to side.

The second set would be markedly different for Sharda, who won 64 percent of the points including hammering the second serve of Kandel with points on all seven of his returns in those spots. He also took advantage of chances when he got them, as he converted all three break points he got in evening the match at a set apiece with a 6-2 victory. 

After a lengthy heat break, Sharda didn't let the layoff affect the momentum as he jumped right back on the court to break serve at 0-1 after losing his serve in the opening game. That break would put Sharda in the driver's seat the rest of the way as he won the final six games of the set, including clinching the win at 5-1 with the score 40-15 to earn the title. 

Sharda had a chance to reflect on the title and the entire week he's had down in Florida. "It feels great, it's been a long time coming for Tufts...I've seen a lot of really great Tufts players in these tournaments...Boris Sorkin making the finals a couple of coach said it's history today," said Sharda. "It's amazing, not everyone gets to finish their career with a win, right?"

When asked about the impact that head coach Karl Gregor and the coaching staff has had on him, Sharda was at a loss. "I don't even have words to describe that," said Sharda. "I am the man I am today because of them. I came here without ever living in the United States, coach gave me an opportunity to play on this team. They welcomed me with open arms. They've helped me day in, day out." 

The Tufts University men's tennis season will go down as one of the best in program history, as the squad picked up a NCAA National runner-up finish, a 24-2 record and now an NCAA Division III Singles Champion in Rishabh Sharda.