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Sports Tennis

Bulldogs ready for All-American Qualifier

Photo: Taylor Soule

Four members of the Drake men’s tennis team capped off a solid weekend on Sunday on the final day of the Drake Fall Invitational. Junior Anis Ghorbel led the Bulldog charge by capturing the singles title in the ‘A’ Flight while the other three Drake players reached the semifinals or better.

Ghorbel made quick work of all his opponents throughout the weekend. The Drake junior was the only player to go undefeated in both singles and doubles in the entire tournament. Ghorbel didn’t drop a single set en route to the finals and he kept that trend alive on Sunday against Axel Lagerof of Northern Illinois. The young Tunisian was in control for the entire match and never let his opponent gain any momentum in the routine 6-2, 6-2 victory.

“Anis is definitely going to be one of the leaders of the team this year,” head coach Evan Austin said. “He has improved his fitness and movement on court compared to last spring.”

Ghorbel’s opponent in the final, Lagerof, was the only person standing in the way of an all-Drake final on Sunday, as the Northern Illinois opponent topped Drake senior Jonathan Hadash 7-6, 7-6. Despite the setback in the semifinal, Austin believes that it was a very promising start to Hadash’s senior season. Austin cited the Drake senior’s 6-1, 6-1 victory over Creighton’s top player, Billy Paluch, as a high point of the weekend.

“Right now he is healthier and fitter than he was last spring,” Austin said. “This weekend was definitely the best I’ve seen him play since I got here.”

Drake’s two freshmen also finished their runs on Sunday, with Alen Salibasic falling in the semifinals of the ‘B’ Flight and Grant Tesmer coming in second place in the ‘C’ Flight. Both of the Bulldogs ended up losing to Iowa Hawkeye players, with Salibasic dropping a 4-6, 7-6, 6-3 match to Matt Hagan.

“We were able to pick out some things for Alen to work on,” Austin said. “I’m expecting him to make a lot of strides over the next few months.”

Tesmer lost 6-1, 6-4 in the final to Garret Dunn, but despite the obvious nerves of one’s first collegiate tournament, Austin noted that the freshman’s competitive spirit was on full display over the weekend and that he would only get better with more experience and match play.

With much of the team logging matches in the past two weeks, the Bulldogs now face the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s All-American Qualifying Tournament this weekend in Tulsa, Okla. Austin is bringing juniors James McKie and Jean Erasmus as well as Ghorbel and Salibasic.

The tournament’s first rounds on Saturday are the “pre-qualifying” singles matches, in which McKie, Erasmus and Salibasic will compete to achieve a spot in the qualifying tournament. Ghorbel, who held a regional singles ranking at the end of last season, is the only Bulldog that was awarded a spot in the qualifying tournament. No Drake players were placed in the main draw of the tournament as only the top 48 players in the nation receive that distinction.

Later on in the weekend, McKie and Erasmus will compete in the qualifying draw of the doubles tournament, battling for a spot in the main draw. Wins in the main draw, and maybe even in the later rounds of the qualifying draw, would push currently unranked players into contention for a national ranking from the ITA in either singles or doubles.

“Unlike the ITA Central Regional tournament where we just compete against guys from our region, the ITA All-American draws have every top guy in the country,” Austin said. “It’s a great opportunity for our guys this weekend.”

The four Bulldogs making the trip to Tulsa are looking forward to the tournament, hoping to improve on their already impressive results from last fall.

“This year I’m more mature and focused on the court,” Ghorbel said, “and this week I’m going to get in some extra workouts so I can be physically ready against some of the best players in college tennis.”

The Times-Delphic will follow the four Bulldogs in their battle for a main draw spot in one of the most prestigious tournaments in college tennis, starting with Saturday’s results in next Monday’s issue.

NEXT BIG MATCH

Saturday, Oct. 1
All-American Qualifying Tournament
Tulsa, Okla.

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