After their spring 2020 season was cancelled, the Vanderbilt Commodores kicked off their 2021 campaign with a win over Nashville rival Belmont on Sunday. In a socially distanced match with no fans, the Commodores took the doubles point 3-0 and five singles matches for a 6-1 overall victory.
Seniors George Harwell and Max Freeman secured the No. 1 doubles match with a 6-4 set, juniors Marcus Ferreira and Macsen Sisam took the No. 2 match 6-4 and senior Adam Sraberg and Jeremie Casabon, the lone Vanderbilt underclassman on the court, secured the doubles sweep with a 6-2 win.
The veteran Commodores set the tone for the rest of the match—not just with their dominant doubles play but also in the locker room in the days leading up to their season opener.
“I’ve been impressed,” head coach Ian Duvenhage said. “They had a meeting on Saturday before our match, and I really liked how they came to work on Sunday morning. They were in the right place mentally and emotionally to play their best, and that kind of attitude from the team is always something that starts with your leadership.”
After taking the doubles point, the Commodores quickly and decisively collected two singles wins in straight sets from Ferreira at No. 3 and Harwell at No. 1. Following their victories, Casabon and Sisam both rallied after losing their second sets to take the fourth and fifth points of the match, securing the overall win against the Bruins.
Freeman, at No. 2, eventually lost a tough three-set battle against Belmont’s Arthur Toledo, 6-1, 2-6, 7-5. Sophomore Joubert Klopper added another point to Vanderbilt’s total in his 6-4, 6-1 victory at No. 6.
Vanderbilt looked dominant in its season opener, but Duvenhage and the team know that there is plenty of work to be done.
“I thought, for a start to a season, it was a very, very solid effort,” Duvenhage said. “Our competition is going to get considerably tougher, so we have to continue to get better and work hard. Belmont showed us that we’ve got to improve our defense. We’re going to be put under increased pressure as the season goes on, and how you play defense against good teams, in large part, determines whether you have a chance to win.”
Coronavirus restrictions have changed the way matches look in the Currey Tennis Center, but the team is grateful to be on the courts at all after last year’s season was cancelled.
“All of us are very grateful to have this opportunity,” Duvenhage said. “We all spent some time in quarantine when this first started; we know what it feels like to be isolated. Just having the opportunity to be on the same courts every day to practice is a great privilege.”
On Sunday, Vanderbilt will host the Rice Owls, in what could be a significant match for Coach Duvenhage: with a win, he would obtain his 200th victory at Vanderbilt.