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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

Men’s Tennis: Vanderbilt nearly upsets No. 12 Ole Miss on Senior Day, losing 4-3

Vanderbilt lost to a high-powered Rebel team in a close matchup.
George Harwell and Vanderbilt take on Ole Miss on April 11, 2021. (Twitter/@VandyMTennis)

Vanderbilt fell 4-3 to the Ole Miss Rebels in their final home game Sunday afternoon, splitting the singles points 3-3 but narrowly losing the decisive doubles point. Before play began, senior Adam Sraberg was honored by the team in front of his family and friends. 

“We’ll miss Adam Sraberg. You know I like to tell him he’s a real mensch,” head coach Ian Duvenhage said. “He’s just a good human being with a great heart and we’ve loved having him for four years and he’s been a great positive influence on our program.”

Once the ceremony ended, Sraberg took to Court Three with doubles partner Macsen Sisam for their matchup against the towering pairing of Rebels, Lukas Engelhardt and Jacob Cadonau, both measuring in at 6’6″ or taller. This created an entertaining contrast of styles between the speed and versatility of the Commodore duo and the strong service game of the Rebels. 

The games went back and forth until the Rebels won a 4-5 break when Sisam was just short on a return at deuce. Sisam and Sraberg responded with a break of their own in the next game, tying the set 5-5. Sraberg’s service game at 5-5 was broken 40-0 by the Rebels, but Sisam and Sraberg returned the favor to send the match into tiebreak. The Commodores blazed out to a 4-1 tiebreak lead before a couple missed shots brought the Rebels back into the match at 4-3. The duos traded points once more before action on the other courts led their match to be abandoned at 5-4.

On Court One, seniors Max Freeman and George Harwell faced the Rebel duo of Finn Reynolds and Tim Sandkaulen. The teams traded games, before a deuce in the third game that Ole Miss won through a serve that bounced into the body of Freeman. Freeman responded in the next game with a slam at 40-30 to bring the match back even at 2-2. After a break by the Commodores to lead 3-2, the Rebels claimed the next two games to take a commanding lead. Harwell and Freeman mounted a comeback, but narrowly fell short as they lost the final two games on deuce. Since Court One finished first, Ole Miss had needed only one more win to secure the doubles match.

Court Two featured Commodores Jeremie Casabon and Connor Robb-Wilcox against Brady Draheim and Simon Junk. The duos went back and forth in games until Casabon and Wilcox got the first break to lead 4-2. Draheim and Junk returned the favor with a break before winning their next service game to tie the match 4-4. Robb-Wilcox put his duo up 5-4 after a beautiful serve and return combination at deuce, and the teams then cruised to a 6-6 tie break. 

In the tie break, Casabon and Robb-Wilcox shot out to a 5-1 lead, punctuated by a shot placed between the feet of Draheim and Junk. The Rebels responded to bring the tiebreak to 5-5, and the two teams then went to 6-6 on a return directly into the legs of Robb-Wilcox. Tied again, Ole Miss took the lead for the first time in the entire match at 6-7 with a play at the net that slipped out of Casabon’s reach. The match and the doubles point were won at 6-8 with a dramatic return that scraped over the net, completing the Rebels’ comeback doubles victory. 

With the score at 1-0, Vanderbilt needed to secure four of the six remaining singles points in order to pull off the upset. 

On singles Court One, Harwell and Reynolds faced off after playing against one another in doubles. Reynolds came back to break and win his next service game, tying the set 3-3. After going even once again, Reynolds pulled ahead to a 5-4 lead after Harwell went long twice in a row. Reynolds came up short at deuce in the next game, bringing the set to 5-5. Harwell carried the first set 7-5 through a long volley win followed by Reynolds’ double fault in the last game.

In the second set on Court One, Harwell and Reynolds defended each of their service games until they reached tiebreak. Harwell came out slow before stringing together four of the final five points on his way to a 7-3 tiebreak that clinched the match for the Commodores.

On Court Two, Jeremie Casabon and Tim Sandkaulen matched up in another battle of speed versus size. Sandkaulen’s serve proved to be too much for Casabon, as he started out to a 4-0 first set lead. Casabon was able to steal the fifth game, but lost the first set 1-6. The dominant showing from the 6’6” Rebel continued in the second set, leading to a 6-2 victory that sealed the match for Ole Miss.

Vanderbilt junior Marcus Ferreira and Nikola Slavic played the longest match of the day on Court Three. Ultimately lasting over three hours, it concluded after the decision was already won by Ole Miss 4-2. Ferreira and Slavic elected to continue past the decision, and they went on to play seven more intense games.

Ferreira initially put on a clinic with his technical ability leading to a 5-0 first set lead, including the first of multiple slams. Slavic responded by controlling the next four games with his powerful serve and clean net approaches. The first set went to Ferreira at 40-30 on a line call, prompting the small crowd to erupt. The second set was more competitive than the first, but Slavic pulled away 6-4 with incredible service games and consistent play.

The deciding set of Court Three was characterized by one break after another between the players. Neither player won their service game until the fifth game, which Ferreira followed with another break to lead 4-2 in the third set. Slavic nearly came away with the match by winning three-straight games and going to deuce on the fourth. Fortunately for Ferreira, the Rebel missed a backhand return. Ferreira took this opportunity and won the set 7-5 and the match by carrying the final three games. The savvy of Ferreira amidst his comeback was best described by a backwards, over-the-head return followed by a return winner off Slavic’s slam at 30-30 in the final game.

In the shortest match of the day, Commodore Max Freeman and Rebel John Hallquist Lithén competed on Court Four. Lithen carried the first set 6-0 over Freeman, with none of the games reaching deuce. The second set was much of the same for the Rebels, as Lithen put away the match 6-1. 

On Court Five, Vanderbilt junior Macsen Sisam faced Simon Junk of Ole Miss in a loud and competitive match. Each point was hotly contested but Sisam maintained control by using his serve and powerful forehand to move Junk across the court. Sisam took the first set 6-2 decisively, but with five of the eight games reaching a deuce. Junk did not fare much better in the second set, as Sisam jumped out to a 5-0 lead on a smash at deuce. In response, Junk won three-straight games using his forehand to direct the action and test Sisam’s legs. In the deciding game, Junk missed his second return wide and Sisam came away with the match. 

Sophomore Joubert Klopper faced Jacob Cadonau on Court Six and their match ended up being the final point needed in Ole Miss’ victory over Vanderbilt. Klopper and Cadonau started off with a back and forth to the 3-3 mark of the first set. Klopper then dominated the final three games to clinch the first set, 6-3. In the second set, Klopper came out to a 4-1 lead off a deuce winner. Cadonau responded with two ferocious service games and a break, tying the set at 4-4. They eventually reached a tiebreak, where Klopper led 5-3 before a smash from Cadonau brought it back to 5-4. Trading points once more, Cadonau took the lead for the first time in the second set with a winner at the net floating above Klopper’s head. The tiebreak went to Ole Miss after a premature net approach by Klopper allowed the Rebel to slip one past him to win 7-9. 

In the final set, Cadonau’s momentum carried him to four straight games after being tied at 2-2. Klopper fought back with his serve in the final game, reaching a deuce before double faulting to lose the match and clinch an Ole Miss victory. 

“I just told the team: it’s tough. We’ve lost, we’ve lost a lot. And it’s hard, but I am proud of the way they’ve hung in there, the way they competed and their attitudes,” Coach Duvenhage said with respect to the team’s season. 

With the Commodore’s regular season complete, the team will have some time off before the start of the SEC Tournament in Fayetteville, Arkansas, starting April 19.

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About the Contributor
Jonah Crist, Staff Writer
Jonah Crist ('24) is a Human and Organizational Development major in Peabody College. He is from Marysville, Ohio and enjoys spending his time walking around Vanderbilt's campus listening to old music and watching NBA games whenever possible. You can reach him at [email protected].

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