Photo: File photo
Drake junior Anis Ghorbel’s stunning run through the main draw of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Central Regional ended on Tuesday morning, as the Bulldogs’ top player fell to Tsvetan Mihov of the Oklahoma Sooners in the tournament final.
Ghorbel took Mihov to a tiebreaker in each set, but the No. 14 seed Mihov took the match 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5). The Drake junior set himself up for success in the first set, as he earned himself a break point at 5-6 with the score of the next game at 30-40, but the experienced Sooner steadied himself to force the set into a tiebreaker.
The second set played out in similar fashion, as the two players exchanged blows until reaching another tiebreaker. The second set tiebreaker was much closer, as Ghorbel was mere points away from tying the match at a set apiece, but once again Mihov proved too consistent.
As the winner of the Central Regional, Oklahoma’s Mihov will travel to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows in New York City, the site of the U.S. Open, next weekend to participate in the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships. Although Ghorbel will not earn a spot in the draw, his impressive run at the regional tournament will most likely move him into the national singles rankings before the spring season begins.
Head coach Evan Austin said he believes that Ghorbel’s performance should place him within the top 100 players in the nation by January, and he may even break into the top 80. The ranking won’t be bestowed upon Ghorbel simply for the number of matches he won, but for the quality of opponents he defeated in reaching the final.
After mounting a 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 come-from-behind victory over Grant Ive of Tulsa in the round of 16, Ghorbel faced his first nationally ranked opponent of the tournament in Tulsa’s Clifford Marsland. Marsland, the fifth seed in the tournament, holds a national ranking of No. 51, but the Drake junior played lights-out tennis to easily dispatch him in straight sets, 6-1, 6-3.
In the semifinals, Ghorbel took on No. 3 seed Christopher Aumueller of Nebraska. Aumueller currently holds a national ranking of No. 31, but Ghorbel’s explosive play from earlier in the day continued, as he took out Nebraska’s top player 6-4, 6-3.
Ghorbel was the first Bulldog to reach the final of the ITA Central Regional since Dalibor Pavic in 2007. Pavic also lost the title match to an Oklahoma Sooner.
Ghorbel wasn’t the only Drake player posting strong results in the final days of the tournament, as junior Jean Erasmus took the consolation title after dropping his initial match earlier in the week. Erasmus won four matches, all in straight sets, to take the title.
What made Erasmus’ victories even sweeter is that each was over a conference foe, as his first consolation match was a 6-2, 7-5 victory over Wichita State’s Tomislav Gregurovic. The next round was a 7-6, 6-3 win over Bradley’s Hamish Weerasinghe. In the semifinals, Erasmus easily routed Bradley’s Ashton Kalhorn 6-1, 6-1, and in the final he posted the same result over his third Bradley, Gabriel Townes.
The ITA Central Regional marked the final tournament of the fall season for the Bulldogs, so now Austin will focus on preparing his players for the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Individuals Tournament that begins on Jan. 20, 2012. After the tournament, Drake will kick off its spring season, which features matches against nationally ranked teams like Harvard, Nebraska and Minnesota.