On Friday afternoon at the Currey Tennis Center, the Vanderbilt Men’s Tennis team took down both the Northwestern Wildcats and Tennessee State Tigers in a doubleheader to open the 2019 slate.
The first part of the session against Northwestern had three doubles matches. While the first-seeded doubles pairing of senior Cameron Klinger and sophomore Max Freeman lost 6-2, the second seeding pairing of Panu Virtanen and Christiaan Worst won 7-5 in dramatic fashion, as they were down 4-5 but broke their Northwestern opponents twice in the last three games.
“I thought they really executed well towards the end,” head coach Ian Duvenhage added. “What you really want to see from your players is execution under pressure, and they did it beautifully.”
The third-seeded pairing of George Harwell and Billy Rowe also won 6-2, as the Commodores headed into the singles matches with a one-point lead following the doubles matches.
Klinger faced Northwestern sophomore Nick Brookes in the top-seeded matchup for singles. Brookes had been part of the winning pairing that beat Klinger in doubles, but Klinger won in straight sets (6-2, 6-4). In the second set, Klinger broke Brookes to go up 5-3, but was unable to hold serve to close out the match. However, he then broke Brookes to win 6-4.
“You’d expect him to serve it out,” Duvenhage remarked. “But it’s not so much about not making mistakes, it’s how we deal with the mistakes that we made. I felt that he was going to play a good game at 5-4, and he did to break for the match, and that was big.”
Although Freeman won his first set against Northwestern junior Dominik Stary in the second-seeded matchup, Stary rallied to win the next two sets (6-1, 6-0), as Stary seemed to overpower Freeman as the match drew on. Freeman was the only Commodore to lose in both singles and doubles in the first session.
Harwell had a dramatic third-seeded match against Northwestern freshmen Simon Bratholm. Harwell won a first set tiebreak by a score of 7-4, and then won four straight games in the second set to win his match in straight sets 7-6, 6-2. Harwell won in both doubles and singles.
Rowe won easily in straight sets against Northwestern junior Chris Ephron. In both sets, Rowe got an early break and cruised on serve, winning his match 6-3, 6-3. Like his doubles partner George Harwell, Rowe won in both singles and doubles.
On Court Five, Virtanen sealed Vanderbilt’s win in the singles session with a 6-4, 7-6 victory over Jason Seidman in the fifth-seeded matchup. Virtanen was down 4-5 in the tiebreak, but won three of four points to secure his victory. Virtanen was served strongly in both sets, as Seidman was unable to break his serve.
Although Worst fell to Trice Pickens in the sixth-seeded matchup by a score of 4-8, the Commodores still ended up with an impressive victory over Northwestern, 5-2.
The Commodores got off to a hot start when they matched up against the Tennesee State Tigers for the second part of the session. Each doubles pair won in convincing fashion, with the third doubles pairing of Alex Ross and Adam Sraberg quickly defeating their opponents 6-0. At second doubles, the pairing of Virtanen and Worst followed suit with a 6-1 win over the Tigers, while Klinger and Freeman led 5-1 at the conclusion of doubles play.
At first singles, Freeman started quick and maintained momentum throughout the entire match. He soundly defeated Tennessee State freshman Maksims Kazijevs with a score of 6-0, 6-0. It was Freeman’s first win of the day.
Worst found similar success in his second singles matchup, defeating Tennessee State freshman Leandros Misdrachis 6-1, 6-3. It was Worst’s first singles win of the day and third overall.
The Commodores’ toughest matchup against the Tigers came at third singles between Vanderbilt senior Ross and Tennessee State freshman Stefan Koruga. Down 5-6, Ross held serve to force a tiebreaker. He won five of the first six points to eventually take the tiebreaker 7-3 and fended off an impassioned Koruga in the second set to win the match 7-6(3), 6-0.
At fourth singles, Sraberg faced off against Tennessee State freshman Juan Carlos Rojas. Sraberg shrugged off an early challenge by Rojas to take the first set 6-3 and easily captured the second set 6-1.
Vanderbilt freshman Jack Lee saw his first action of the day when he faced off against Tennessee State sophomore Larry Sloan at fourth singles. Lee clinched the win for the Commodores with a resounding 6-1, 6-1 win.
Senior Vikram Chari also played his first match of the day against Tennessee State senior Kato Richardson, winning by a score of 8-3. His victory capped off an excellent 7-0 win over the Tigers in which the Commodores did not drop a single set.
Duvenhage praised his players’ performances.
“So much of what happens in a match like this is determined by people’s attitudes,” Duvenhage insisted. “We did it great today and we’re going to have to do it again next week because Notre Dame is a really good team.”
At the end of the day, the Commodores added two important victories to their record. On January 26, Vanderbilt will face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Oklahoma University.