Photo: Taylor Soule
The Drake men’s tennis team kicked off its final tournament of the fall season with a bang this past weekend as the Bulldogs showcased their depth against Minnesota and Denver last Friday.
The Bulldogs excelled on the first day of the Gopher Invite in Minneapolis, Minn., especially in singles play. On Friday, Drake battled against players from Minnesota and Denver in singles and doubles. The tournament’s format put half of the squad playing against Minnesota and the other half playing against Denver.
The top eight players in the Bulldogs’ singles lineup won their matches, starting with senior Anis Ghorbel, ranked No. 87 in the nation. Ghorbel went up against Minnesota’s Rok Bonin, who is actually tied for No. 87 in the nation along with Ghorbel. Ghorbel went on to win in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.
Senior James McKie, who plays in the second singles slot for the Bulldogs, played against Denver’s Jens Vorkefeld. McKie made even quicker work of his opponent, as the senior captain won 6-2, 6-4.
Junior Robin Goodman continued the trend of dominance for Drake, as he rolled to a 6-1, 6-1 win over his Minnesota opponent, Mathieu Froment. This wasn’t the first time the Drake junior had dominated Froment, as Goodman recorded a 6-2, 6-1 win over him just a few weeks ago at the ITA Central Regional.
Sophomore Alen Salibasic recorded a win over Denver’s Alex Clinkenbeard after his opponent retired when Salibasic held a 4-1 lead.
Senior Jean Erasmus, in only his second tournament of the fall season, played at the fifth singles slot for the Bulldogs. Having not played a full fall schedule due to injury, Erasmus went into the weekend hoping to catch up with the rest of his teammates in match play. Erasmus took over the match in the second set and went on to win 6-4, 6-1 over Max Krammer of Denver.
“I felt really solid on court today and focused on being mentally tough, especially on the big points,” Erasmus said. “My goal for the weekend is to improve my mental ability by being patient on the big points and playing my game.”
At the sixth slot for the Bulldogs was sophomore Ben Mullis, who took on Juan Pablo Ramirez of Minnesota. Like his teammates before him, Mullis took over the match and won in straight sets, 6-3, 6-0.
Freshman Ben Lott was at the seventh slot for Drake, and this was the young Bulldog’s first foray into a dual match type format. Lott looked comfortable as the match got tight against Minnesota’s Ruben Weber. The two split sets 7-5, 5-7, and the match went into a third set super-tiebreaker to decide the match. Lott went on to win 10-6.
“I really enjoyed today. It was great to finally experience the dual match format,” Lott said.
Sophomore Grant Tesmer experienced an equally grueling match at the eighth spot, where he took on Eric Frueh of Minnesota. After winning the first set in a tiebreaker, Tesmer dropped the second set 1-6. With all the momentum going against him, Tesmer fought back and won the super-tiebreaker, and the match, 10-7.
The only singles loss of Friday came in a third set super-tiebreaker, as senior Ryan Drake lost to Denver’s Peter Bjorne 6-1, 6-7, 10-7.
“It was a great effort from all the guys today winning eight of the nine singles matches and only losing out in a super tiebreak in the other singles match,” Lott said on Friday.
Doubles play didn’t go as well for the Bulldogs, as the team won only one of its four matches. After reaching the final of the ITA Central Regionals a couple weeks ago, the duo of Ghorbel and McKie stumbled against Bonin and Froment of Minnesota, as the Drake pair lost 8-6.
The only Drake duo to win on Friday was Erasmus and Goodman, who took on Krammer and Vorkefeld of Denver. The duo, who hadn’t paired together yet this fall season, won the match 8-5.
Salibasic, who has been pairing with Goodman for most of the fall, teamed up with Lott as the third doubles team. The duo took on the Minnesota pair of Frueh and Ramirez in a highly competitive match. Lott and Salibasic couldn’t force the tiebreaker, and the duo lost 9-7.
Drake’s final doubles pairing was Ryan Drake and Tesmer, and the tandem lost to Denver’s Bjorne and Clinkenbeard 8-2.
The Bulldogs are hoping to sustain their solid singles play as they progress through the tournament, while improving on their doubles play against teams like Dartmouth, Nebraska and DePaul.
“Overall, everyone stepped up in the match-ups, and when it got tight in the sets we managed to play our best tennis, which is evidence of the team’s confidence,” Erasmus said.
Coverage of the final results can be found in the next edition of The Times-Delphic.