SENIOR MAURICIO BALLIVIAN stretches for a back hand shot. Ballivian soared to the “A” flight title last Sunday at the Louisville Winter Invitational. Photo: Dominic Johnson
The Drake men’s tennis team has sent a message this fall: When you come to play the Bulldogs, don’t underestimate them.
This past weekend, the Bulldogs followed up an amazing showing at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Central Regional by capturing two titles at the Louisville Winter Invitational last Sunday. Senior Mauricio Ballivian played his best tennis of the fall season to capture the title of the tournament’s top flight. Sophomore Jean Erasmus, coming off a career performance at the ITA Central Regional, captured the consolation title of the same flight.
Ballivian, the Missouri Valley Conference Co-Player of the Year last spring, entered this past tournament with no titles in the fall season.
“[Mauricio] really wanted to win an individual event this fall and it’s nice to see him able to come through in our last event of the fall season,” Drake Head Coach Evan Austin said.
In the first match of the tournament, Ballivian won in a three-set thriller against Joe Salisbury of Memphis by a score of 6-3, 5-7, 7-5. In the next round, he dominated an opponent from Middle Tennessee State, the team that former Drake Head Coach Jimmy Borendame now coaches for.
“He continued to pick up his level throughout the tournament,” Austin said of Ballivian’s performance.
Ballivian went on to defeat Maks Gold of Kentucky in the semifinal match, also in three sets, before facing off against another Memphis opponent, Johnny Ferrer, in the final. Ballivian routed the Memphis freshman in straight sets by a score of 6-1, 7-5, improving his record to 3-0 against Memphis players in the last year.
“This tournament was where I put forward my best tennis of this fall season,” Ballivian said. “After winning the first close match, I had the feeling of ‘this is my tournament.’”
Also on Sunday, Erasmus collected the consolation title, with a routine victory over Louisville’s Arren Carter, 6-3, 6-3. After suffering a loss on the first day of competition to David O’Hare of Memphis, Erasmus regained his composure and won three straight matches to take consolation honors, including a straight-set victory over Memphis’ Salisbury.
Austin admitted that Erasmus and the squad may not have played their best tennis the first day of competition, but believed his squad improved each day.
“We are doing a great job competing hard as a team, and I think we’ve picked up our level of play with each event so far,” Austin said.
Ballivian and Erasmus weren’t the only Bulldogs to post solid results. Junior Jonathan Hadash reached the final of the “B” Flight after winning three consecutive matches, including two in straight sets. Hadash pulled out of the final due to injury. Freshman Robin Goodman had three wins compared to only one loss in the tournament, with all of his wins coming in straight sets. Sophomore Ryan Drake was 2-1 for the weekend while his doubles partner, Mark Fouad, was 2-2.
The Bulldogs also posted solid results in doubles, with the tandem of Ballivian and Hadash leading the charge. The two upperclassmen tallied three wins to reach the doubles final, but faltered in a tiebreaker, losing the match 9-8. The teams of Goodman and Erasmus, and Drake and Fouad posted at least two wins each in doubles play.
This marked the last tournament for the Bulldogs this year, and they will return to action on Jan. 21, 2011, for the State Farm MVC Individuals tournament at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center. The team believes they will be able to carry the momentum from this fall throughout the winter and emerge as a dominant force in the MVC, thanks in part to the guidance of first-year coach Austin.
“I trust Coach Austin’s understanding of our team and trust him as a coach and mentor,” Erasmus said. “He makes you want to be the best you can be every second on the court.”
Each member of the Bulldog squad showed great approval for Austin’s coaching, yet the coach himself believes that the success of the team is not on his shoulders, but the players.
“I think we have the makings of a very good team and should be solid throughout our lineup,” he said. “The success of our team will depend on how well the guys come together and compete in the spring season.”