NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The hope is that a tough conference schedule has prepared the Vanderbilt men’s tennis team as it enters the postseason beginning this week with the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Athens, Georgia.
“We have to get back to the mentality of expecting to win,” said head coach Ian Duvenhage. “We are the same team that beat Northwestern, Arkansas, Wisconsin and Alabama earlier this season.”
The Commodores concluded the regular season with a 14-11 record, 11-5 at home and 2-10 in SEC play. Vandy finished 12th in the SEC and will face 13th-seeded Alabama at 10 a.m. (CT) Wednesday. In their last outing, the Dores won a nailbiter against the Crimson Tide, 4-3, to round out its March homestand. The victory also marked Vandy’s first against Alabama since March 2, 2018.
The semifinals on Saturday will be available live digitally on SEC Network+ beginning at 1 p.m. (CT), while Sunday’s championship match will be televised at 1 p.m. (CT).
Scouting the Opponent – No. 13 Seed Alabama (8-20, 0-12 SEC): The Crimson Tide comes into the postseason with a 8-20 overall record and finished just behind the Dores in the SEC. Alabama looks for their first win against a conference opponent as they finished the regular season 0-12 in SEC play. In the latest ITA rankings, newcomer Filip Planinsek comes in at 36th nationally, while freshman duo Planinsek and German Samofalov sit at No. 52 in the doubles rankings. The last time out against Alabama, Vandy broke a three-match losing streak against the Crimson Tide to win a hard-fought 4-3 battle on March 27.
SEC History Lesson – Vanderbilt at SEC Tournament
Vandy’s only championship match appearance came in 2003 when the Dores won there only SEC title in program history when they swept Florida 4-0 in Oxford, Mississippi. The Dores have advanced to semifinals twice in program history (2003, 2014) and quarterfinals nine times with the most recent being in 2019.
The Black and Gold have hosted the SEC Tournament three times (1992, 2004, 2014), while the event has taken place in Athens for a trio of times, including this year. The Dores’ best SEC finish in Athens was in 1993 when they finished as quarterfinalists after falling 6-1 to Mississippi State, who was the top seed that year.
Harwell Hits Century Mark
On Senior Day (April 10), fifth-year senior George Harwell defeated Tennessee’s Adam Walton, who was No. 14 at the time, in straight sets, 7-6 (6), 6-2, on the top court. The win marked Harwell’s 100th singles win over his career.
Fellow senior Marcus Ferreira is closing in on his own century mark. Ferreira has 99 career wins and is one victory away from the 100 mark.
Rise in ITA Rankings
- In the current ITA team rankings, the Dores sit in the top 50 and currently hold a 14-11 record heading into the SEC Tournament against Alabama at 10 a.m. (CT) Wednesday.
- Harwell, a fifth-year senior and No. 1 singles player, moves up to No. 31 in the latest ITA singles rankings last week.
- Junior Siim Troost and freshman Michael Ross moved up nine spots to 67th nationally last week. Together the pair owns a 13-8 record on the top court heading into the SEC Tournament.
- Junior Joubert Klopper jumped into the singles rankings last week with a career-best 88th nationally. He boasts a 27-11 record and is 15-8 in dual play and 14-8 at the No. 2 singles spot.
Debriefing – Regular Season Finale
The Dores concluded their regular season slate with a pair of losses on the road in the Magnolia State against Mississippi State (14-11, 4-8 SEC) and Ole Miss (16-11, 4-8). Both the Bulldogs and the Rebels enter the SEC Tournament with a 4-8 conference record and as the eighth-seeded and 10th-seeded teams, respectively.
Mixing up the doubles lineup with duos at Mississippi State proved to pay off as the Dores got off to a quick start to pick up the opening point. Harwell and Klopper, downed their Bulldogs opponent 6-1 on Court 2 to get the Dores off to a quick start. Sophomore Jeremie Casabon and Ross secured the doubles point after a 6-4 win on Court 3. The Bulldogs flipped the momentum in singles play to win the match.
Troost and senior Macsen Sisam were the bright spots against Ole Miss, winning the only doubles match against the Rebels and picking up the only two points for the Dores. Sisam and Troost won their first match as a doubles team, taking down No. 17 Lukas Engelhardt and Finn Reynolds of Ole Miss on the top court, 6-1. Making his way back to the singles lineup, Sisam won his seventh-straight singles and first in SEC play. Troost closed out the match on a positive note for the Dores to grab his first SEC win at the No. 5 singles spot.
Klopper Earned SEC Honors
The junior was named SEC Player of the Week, as announced by the league office on Feb. 16.
A native of Bloemfontein, South Africa, Klopper, was honored for his 7-0 dual record at the time, which included three wins during the doubleheader against ACC foe Virginia Tech and The Citadel on Feb. 13. Klopper clinched the match against the Hokies in a two-set thriller, 7-6 (2), 6-4, on Court 2. Later in the afternoon, Klopper moved up to the top singles spot to defeat his Bulldogs opponent in straight sets, 6-2, 6-0.
Currently, he has a combined 43-19 record including 27-11 in singles and 16-8 in doubles. During the dual season, Klopper’s 23-14 record is highlighted by 15-8 in singles.
On Deck in Athens
The winner of Vanderbilt/Alabama will advance to the second round of the SEC Tournament to face conference rival Tennessee at 2 p.m. (CT) Thursday.