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Former teammates play as foes

Story by Dominic Johnson

Drake men’s tennis senior Jean Erasmus and former teammate Anis Ghorbel* played tennis in the same stadium in Tunis, Tunisia, on July 3, 2012. But for the first time since they arrived at Drake, the two Bulldogs weren’t there as teammates, but as rivals. The two were playing for their respective countries in a Davis Cup tie, Ghorbel for Tunisia and Erasmus for Namibia. Ghorbel’s Tunisia squad won the match 3-0, but it was an unforgettable experience for both players.

“It was funny to have Anis as my roommate, friend and teammate, and then all of sudden we are playing against each other for our representative countries,” Erasmus said.

This wasn’t the first time either player had competed in the Davis Cup for his country. This was Erasmus’ third time representing Namibia and Ghorbel’s fourth time playing for Tunisia. Once the two arrived in Tunisia for the competition, they began practicing with their teams. The impending match didn’t affect their camaraderie, though.

“The first day he saw me, he said ‘I’m dying, man, I just hit for 20 minutes and I’m dying,’” Ghorbel said with a laugh.

Unfortunately for the two athletes, they weren’t scheduled to play against each other when the lineups were announced. Erasmus only played singles while Ghorbel only played doubles.

“It would have been amazing if I could have played Jean in doubles,” Ghorbel said. “It was fun to play those guys. All those guys are nice. The Davis Cup is always an amazing experience.”

Erasmus played his match against Malek Jaziri, who was ranked No. 69 in the world at the time. Although Jaziri won the match 6-2, 6-4, Erasmus played well on the court against an elite tennis pro.

“I did manage to play the No. 69 in the world at the time, and honestly, it was a great experience, something I’ve never done before,” Erasmus said. “It was great to compete with a top pro and see where you are. Playing on clay courts is a very difficult thing for me, but I thought I did pretty well.”

Ghorbel agreed that his former Drake teammate performed well against his countryman. Ghorbel said he believed Erasmus’ play in high-level college competition prepared him well for the match against Jaziri.

“I was watching the match and really I couldn’t see any big, big difference between pro tennis and college tennis,” Ghorbel said. “I always train with Jaziri back home, and the difference that you can notice is a mental and physical difference. Obviously, he is a pro player, so he trains every day for like six hours, so he’s got amazing fitness and mentally is so strong in different situations.”

Ghorbel teamed up with Slim Hamza to post a 6-0, 6-3 win over their Namibian opponents in doubles. Although both players battled to get a win for their country, they still cheered for and supported each other.

“Even though he was supporting his own team, he still clapped and supported me in my own individual match,” Erasmus said.

Tunisia advanced to Group II of the Davis Cup after finishing first in the tournament held in Tunis, while Namibia stayed in Group III after finishing fifth.

Both Ghorbel and Erasmus will continue tennis after graduation in Futures tournaments, the minor leagues of the professional tennis circuit. Both players will continue to play in the Davis Cup and eagerly anticipate the next time they have the opportunity to face each other on the international stage.

“Hopefully, we can keep these amazing experiences going on,” Ghorbel said. “Hopefully, we can see each other in the Davis Cup in the future.”

*Editor’s Note: Since the interviews and reporting for this story were conducted, Anis Ghorbel left the Drake men’s tennis team.

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