In his first career Ivy League dual match, Timothy Wang was serving up 5-4 in the third set against Dartmouth’s Max Schmidt at sixth singles.
Serving from the left baseline and with his team up 3-2 against the then-No. 40 Big Green, Wang bounced the ball four times, brought his hands together, tossed the ball high in the air, and sank the perfect serve. Schmidt’s return went long, and the Dick Savitt Tennis Center erupted, with Wang at the center of it all.
“That Dartmouth and Harvard weekend was unforgettable because the environment and atmosphere were unlike anything I had ever been a part of,” Wang said. “That set the tone for the rest of our matches going forward.”
Two years and ten Ivy League dual match victories later—all from the sixth singles position—and Wang has cemented his role for men’s tennis, which has captured four consecutive Ancient Eight titles.
Sporting a career 36-12 dual match record, including a 16-3 record in dual matches his sophomore season, Wang has underpinned the Lions’ recent success with years of consistent play.
While Wang has occasionally played in the fourth and fifth singles position, a majority of his victories have come at sixth singles, where Wang fits perfectly, according to head coach Bid Goswami.
“He’s gritty, runs for every ball, and plays every single point all the way through,” Goswami said.
Former Lions standout Mike Vermeer, GS ’16, who played a majority of his sophomore season in the sixth singles position, similarly praised Wang.
“I think over the years he definitely understood that as being part of the team it’s not always about you, and whatever is better for the team [goes],” Vermeer said. “I think that is one of the things he clearly understood very well and that makes it more possible for him to go out there.”
First-year Austen Huang, who often warms up with Wang before matches, noted that Wang’s playing style was the embodiment of the phrase, “the best offense is a good defense.”
Wang, who describes himself as a “grinder” on the tennis court, saw plenty of success in high school, capturing two state titles in Michigan before coming to Columbia as the highest-ranked recruit out of the Great Lakes state in 2015.
Upon arriving in Morningside Heights, Wang’s strong work ethic caught the attention of the coaches, who gave Wang an opportunity to play in the sixth position early in his first year.
Wang’s first career match was against Minnesota, and he ultimately stayed in the lineup until he was held out of the lineup against Cornell after a difficult stretch on a road trip to Texas, where he lost three out of four matches.
Earning a chance to play at sixth singles against Dartmouth in the team’s next match, though, Wang delivered when the moment mattered and has been a staple in the lineup ever since.
Wang and his roommate and fellow junior Victor Pham, who has similarly held a strong presence in the Light Blue’s lineup since arriving at Columbia, were named captains in the fall after the graduation of Shawn Hadavi, CC ’17, Richard Pham, CC ’17, and Christopher Grant, CC ’17.
Victor Pham, who has played alongside Wang throughout the duo’s career in Morningside Heights, noted that Wang brings a positive energy to practice and matches that is unrivaled.
“If you ask any of the guys, Tim’s the one who is most fired up on the court or the gym,” Pham said. “He brings a great energy to our training regime, which is always very inspiring. Now that we are in a more senior leadership position, it’s great to have him as a co-captain because we are two very different people and personalities.”
And given that Wang is now an upperclassman on a team laden with underclassman talent, he has taken on a mentorship role, one in which he works just as hard as he does on the court.
One of Wang’s first tasks as a junior was helping the first-years become acclimated to Columbia tennis, a task he took in stride. A primary beneficiary of Wang’s mentorship was Huang, with whom Wang has spent countless hours working this season.
Huang’s inconsistent play in the fall proved frustrating for the highly touted first-year, but Huang cited a turnabout of late, including two crucial wins against ranked opponents this season, as privy to a shift of mentality. For Wang, seeing Huang improve steadily is a testament to the foundation which has been established by the four-time defending Ivy champions.
When Ivy League play arrives in April, he will take his secure place at sixth singles, putting his perfect Ancient Eight record to the test for yet another year.