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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 falls in heartbreaking fashion, 4-3, to No. 5 Tennessee on Senior Day

The Commodores nearly upset the in-state rival Volunteers while celebrating George Harwell, Max Freeman and Macsen Sisam with pre-match celebrations on Senior Day.
George Harwell celebrates the 100th singles win of his career in a home match against the Tennessee Volunteers on April 10, 2022. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

On April 15, the Vanderbilt Commodores (14-9, 2-8 SEC) nearly pulled off an upset for the ages, falling 4-3 to the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers (18-6, 6-4). The match was decided on Court 4: With the score knotted, 3-3, Freeman was nearly victorious but ultimately lost the final singles point to freshman Shunsuke Mitsui.  

Despite dropping three consecutive matches, the Commodores have competed hard in a hyper-competitive conference and seem poised for a breakthrough. 

“I truly believe that we can compete with and beat any team in the country,” Harwell said. “This last match against Tennessee wasn’t our first close one—we lost to No. 10 Kentucky and No. 11 Georgia both 4-3, and I think we should’ve beaten both of them.” 

Vanderbilt is currently ranked 50th nationally but has wins over both No. 26 Northwestern and No. 44 Arkansas, along with close losses—all 4-3—to three conference foes all ranked in the top 11. The Commodores will have two more regular season matches, both on the road, against the No. 35 Mississippi State Bulldogs and the No. 36 Ole Miss Rebels.

While the team ultimately came up short in its pursuit of its third conference victory of the year, Harwell celebrated a personal accolade on Sunday, recording his 100th career singles win. With this victory over Tennessee’s Adam Martin, who is ranked 12th in the nation, 19 spots ahead of Harwell, he improved his singles record to 100-63 overall. 

“It was a rollercoaster of emotions for me,” Harwell said. “I didn’t even know at the time that it was my 100th win, and I also was thinking we were going to win because I tied it up 3-3 and then Max [Freeman] was up in his singles match.”

This season has been the best of Harwell’s career to date. In 2018, he was elected to the All-SEC Freshman Team and, in 2021, the All-SEC Second Team but attained his highest singles ranking (No. 26) this season during the week of Feb. 9. Despite his personal success, however, Harwell expressed that he cares much more about the success of his team than his individual achievements. 

“Obviously, I would’ve preferred the team win instead of any personal accolade—especially in this match because I grew up a Vanderbilt fan and always disliked Tennessee,” Harwell said. “I had this game circled on the calendar, and we had a lot of friends and family there, so it would’ve been a good one to win.” 

Along with Harwell, juniors Siim Troost and Joubert Klopper each notched singles points against the Volunteers. Troost won his fifth straight singles match in SEC play and improved his singles record to 8-2 in conference play. Klopper, on the other hand, grabbed his fifth ranked singles win of the season, defeating Tennessee’s Johannus Monday, the No. 5 singles player in the nation. 

With several close losses, Vanderbilt has parts of its game to work on, while others it can rely on. At times, the Commodores have struggled at doubles, but they have found a consistent performer in Troost on the singles court, who has won five straight singles points in conference play. 

“Going forward, I think we’ll have to focus on getting the doubles point,” Harwell said. “That’s been an Achilles’ heel of ours. But on a positive note, Siim [Troost] has been an absolute lock for us and is on a tear.”

The Commodores, 12th out of 13 teams in the SEC, face their most important stretch of the season ahead. They have an opportunity, with two wins, to jump to as high as the No. 8 seed in the conference before the SEC Tournament, which will be held from April 20-24. 

Up next, Vanderbilt travels to Starkville, Mississippi, on April 15 to face the Bulldogs at 3 p.m. CDT.

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About the Contributor
Andy Carr
Andy Carr, Former Assistant Sports Editor
Andy Carr ('22) was a student in the College of Arts and Science who studied economics with minors in business and computer science. In addition to writing, he enjoys running, playing golf and rooting for all D.C. sports. He can be reached at [email protected].
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