Men’s tennis racquets up the rankings

by Anthony Reclusado

The San Diego State men’s tennis team is ready to dominate, and Aztec fans should take notice. Led by head coach Gene Carswell, this SDSU team has the talent to not only capture its first Mountain West tournament championship in eight years, but to make a splash in the NCAA tournament.

After a down 2010-11 season where they went 7-16, the Aztecs have successfully improved the past two years, finishing 15-8 and 18-8 respectively.

This growth was not unnoticed by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, which ranked SDSU in the top 65 for the last two seasons and at No. 53 in the nation for the 2013-14 season.

With two seniors, Hunter Nicholas and Juan Florez, and two juniors, Thorsten Bertsch and Andranik Khachatryan, this team has the veteran leadership to succeed. In addition, the young talent of four freshmen, Milen Ianakiev, Hendrik Jebens, Jonas Meinzer and Maxi Boewer-Stelter, and lone redshirt sophomore Freddy Gelbrich, can build off of previous success and make this season a memorable one.

Along with the leadership from coach Carswell and the four upper-classmen, this team’s ultimate goal is to reach the NCAA Tournament.

[quote]“We take every match one at a time and we know every match can be a breaking point for the team, so every time we step onto the court it is do or die,” Nicholas said.[/quote]

The Aztecs are aware that when they step onto the court it’s all business and they need to zero in on their job. That’s not to say this team doesn’t know how to relax and enjoy themselves when time permits.

[quote]“When we are off the court it is a pretty loose atmosphere and we are all joking around with one another,” Nicholas said.[/quote]

Bertsch is recognized by the ITA as one of the best players in the country. He was ranked No. 114 in this year’s preseason men’s singles rankings, and currently sits at No. 69. This is the highest ranking by an individual for SDSU since the 2006-07 season, where Markus Dickhardt was No. 35 in the nation.

The heightened exposure has not pierced Bertsch’s mindset, where he remains grounded and within the team mindset of playing as a single unit. He has gone as far as establishing goals for the team.

“I want this team to be top 40 and qualify for the NCAA Tournament directly,” Bertsch said.

That has not stopped him from setting personal goals, which include continuing to advance in the ranking and be selected for the NCAA singles tournament. SDSU is not just a bunch of individuals playing for themselves—it is a family that plays for each other.

[quote]“We all go to classes together, we live together, we train everyday together; we are a family, and when we step onto the court we play as one unit,” Nicholas said.[/quote]

To remain connected to campus and the other sports programs, the men’s tennis team performs the “I Believe” chant before every match to get themselves pumped up. Now all they need is some Aztec pride from the student body, so come out and cheer on the Aztecs at their next home match
on Feb. 27.