NEW YORK – Opening weekend for the Columbia men’s tennis team gets under way Saturday, when the Lions head to Atlanta for the MLK Invitational. 

In the three-day event, Columbia is scheduled to face No. 4 Georgia on Saturday, before a 2 p.m. dual with the host, Georgia Tech, and a Monday match against No. 16 Illinois. Much like last year, the event will have individual matches with no team scoring. Live video will be available now for all matches, while live stats are provided throughout the tournament.

Last year in Atlanta, Columbia impressed against the then No. 5 ranked Bulldogs, taking eight of 10 matches during the opening weekend. Victor Pham and Richard Pham were named the Doubles Champions at the MLK Invitational, after a trio of victories against the three teams that are also participating this year. 

This will be the first outing for the Lions since the fall season, when the No. 23 ranked team in the country impressed during several tournaments.

Pham ended the fall with a No. 19 ranking, thanks to a pair of deep runs at two high-profile tournaments. The junior opened the fall with a runner-up finish at the Oracle ITA Masters, topping a pair of ranked players along the way, including No. 3 Petros Chrysochos from Wake Forest. In the final, Pham fell to No. 11 Brandon Holt (USC) after he was fought off in a tiebreaker. The Saratoga, California, native was the ITA Northeast Regional Champion, winning every set along the way, before advancing to the ITA Fall National Championship where he won another match.

On the doubles side, Pham and Jackie Tang ended the fall with a No. 15 ITA ranking, going 7-4 overall with a win at the Fall National Championship. The Pham/Tang pair were unable to snag a Northeast Regional Championship however, as teammates Jack Lin and William Matheson, the No. 31 ranked pair, defeated them in a tiebreaker at the Dick Savitt Tennis Center to earn a bid of their own to the Fall National Championship.

Also entering the spring season in the singles rankings is Tang, as the No. 38 ranked singles player went 12-6 overall, including four victories at the ITA All-American. Timothy Wang ended the fall in a tie at No. 122 in the singles rankings, going 9-2 overall after a 25-8 overall record during his sophomore campaign.

It is no secret that the Lions have become the class of the Ivy League as of late, winning the past four conference crowns. This year’s squad will be without some key components of its recent success, as three starters will have to be replaced. Among the bunch include former Ivy League Player of the Year Shawn Hadavi, along with former first team All-Ivy doubles player Richard Pham, and Christopher Grant, who went 19-1 in doubles last spring.

The Lions will attempt to replace that success with a talented younger core, which includes the No. 6 ranked freshman class from a year ago. Already, the success of the younger group has shown through, with Lin advancing to the Fall Nationals in doubles alongside his junior teammate Matheson, while he posted a 10-4 record in singles play. Newcomers Austen Huang (5-4), Jason Lui (7-3), and Rian Pandole (8-1) also showed off their talents in the fall, and will hope to crack an already stacked lineup.

After the MLK Invitational, the Columbia Tennis Alumni and Friends Head Coach of Men’s Tennis Bid Goswami, along with Associate Head Coach Howard Endelman and Volunteer Assistant Coach Haig Schneiderman will have some tough decisions to make quickly, as the Lions welcome Old Dominion on Saturday, Jan. 20 in the first home dual of the season. After the match with the Monarchs, Columbia travels to Charlottesville, Virginia, for the ITA Kick-Off, taking on Ole Miss in the opener on Saturday, Jan. 27, before battling the winner or loser of the match between No. 12 Virginia and No. 24 Texas Tech the following day.