Tide hits stiff competition in Athens

Mike Albanese

The 43rd annual Southern Intercollegiate Championships, held in Athens, Ga., was the early season test the Alabama men’s tennis team was looking for.

            A record 35 schools participated in the oldest fall college tennis tournament in the country. Southeastern Conference rivals Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, LSU, Kentucky and Vanderbilt joined a field including Miami (Fla.), Georgia State, The College of Charleston and many more.

            The tournament, which lasted from Sept. 24-27, divided the singles field into three divisions and the doubles field into two divisions.

             The first day of action saw the Tide notch six victories. During the opening round of the doubles draw, the Tide split two matches. Sophomore Jarryd Botha and senior Trey Waltson defeated the University of South Florida pair by a score of 8-3. However, the tandem fell to the University of Georgia’s pairing of junior Wil Spencer and senior Drake Bernstein in the next round.

            After some of the Tide’s inconsistencies in practice in recent weeks, the importance of practice and focus is key to achievement, especially early in the season.

            “We’re probably having more communication with the guys right now than we’ve ever had in terms of what’s going on and being honest with each other,” head coach Billy Pate said. “That’s probably a reflection of being honest. This is what’s happening, this is not a good practice, this is not the standard we want, and I think they’ve learned what that is.”

Juniors Ricky Doverspike and Vikram Reddy fell to Eastern Kentucky, and junior Michael Thompson and sophomore Ian Chadwell defeated the pairing from Vanderbilt, 8-4, earning a trip to the round of 32.

            The Tide had three members advance to the round of 32 in the Division I singles draw. Reddy picked up a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Samford University’s sophomore Alex Sajonz. Doverspike won his match 6-3, 6-2, and Thompson battled to a 7-6, 7-6 victory over Lipscomb freshman David Salazar.

            Waltson and Alabama freshman Carlos Taborga advanced to the round of 32 in the division III singles draw by notching victories in their respective matches.

            Day two of the tournament saw the Tide continue to put up impressive performances by winning six more matches. Five victories came via the singles draws, in addition to a doubles win with Thompson and Chadwell reaching the quarterfinals of the Division I draw.

            Chadwell, a powerful server, and Thompson, a finesse player, proved to be a difficult combination of styles for other teams.

“If we hold serve and we’re threatening them on their serve, there aren’t many teams we don’t have a chance to beat,” Thompson said.

            Botha played to a 7-6 (4), 6-1, victory over Stetson junior Maksim Levanovich in the Division I round of 32. However, matched up against overall No. 1 seed, Georgia Tech senior Guillermo Gomez, he was defeated by a score of 6-4, 6-4.

            In the Division II bracket, Reddy defeated Winthrop senior Dejon Bievns by a score of 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-4, but fell in the next round to Eastern Kentucky senior Hugo Klientovsky.

Doverspike once again cruised through his match by a score of 6-3, 6-3, but was dropped in the round of 16 by Georgia Tech senior Ryan Smith in three sets. Georgia State freshman Thomas Cook dropped Thompson in the round of 32 by a score of 6-3, 6-2.

            Taborga fell in the Division III main draw to the University of Tennessee sophomore Taylor Patrick, while Waltson defeated junior Mark Lange of Samford University in the consolation draw.

            The final day of the tournament witnessed the Tide’s pairing of Thompson and Chadwell fall to Stetson University’s senior Cesare Gallo and sophomore Didrik Berg 8-6 in the Quarterfinals of the Division I doubles draw.

            “We’re still in a learning phase,” Pate said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys. We’re still pretty far from the dual match part of the season where it really counts.”