New York Open
College Wild Card Invitational
November 21, 2018
In a three-set thriller that spanned three-and-a-half hours, Columbia sophomore Jack Mingjie Lin edged Cornell’s Alafia Ayeni to capture USTA Eastern’s inaugural New York Open College Wild Card Invitational, 6-7(3), 6-3, 7-6 (5). His reward, besides outlasting a field of the best college players from across the region? A spot in the main draw of February’s New York Open, a 250-level men’s tournament on the ATP tour.
“I’m super excited,” Lin said after the match. “I’ve been looking forward to this event for so long. As soon as my coach said I had an opportunity here, I was super excited to even be a part of it.”
Ayeni and Lin seemed to be on a collision course to face each other in the championship match: Lin, the No. 2 seed, dropped just two sets en route to the final, while No. ADVERTISEMENT 1 seed Ayeni lost zero. Ayeni also gave up no more than three games per set until the semifinals.
“Alafia is a tremendous player,” Lin said. “He competes so well. It’s too bad that only one of us can win, but I’m happy that I was able to pull through.”
Athletes from 16 colleges in the Eastern section participated in the three-day event, which was held November 16-18 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York. Three players each from Princeton and Columbia made runs to the quarterfinals, and two of the four semifinalists hailed from Cornell.
“I think this was a wonderful opportunity,” said Cornell Head Coach Silviu Tanasoiu. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a chance to play for something so big…This initiative is one of the better ones I’ve witnessed since I’ve been in the Northeast.”
Howie Edelman, Columbia’s Associate Head Coach, agreed.
“It was incredible for the guys,” he said. “And at the end of the day, we saw one of the great matches that we’ve probably seen in several years. It really shows the high level of college tennis in this area. To be able to showcase a match like this featuring two of the best players in college tennis, at the US Open site, with an opportunity to get a wild card into an ATP tournament—what else can you ask for? We want to thank New York Open’s Peter Lebedevs and USTA Eastern for this.”
Lin will now battle one of the world’s best players in a first-round match at the New York Open on Tuesday, February 12, 2019 during the tournament’s College Night.