Rebel tennis teams open seasons this weekend

The sixth-ranked Ole Miss men open their tennis season today against the Louisville Cardinals at 2 p.m. indoors at the Gillom Center. The Lady Rebels open against Tennessee-Chattanooga at 11 a.m. Saturday and host USM Sunday at 1 p.m. Those two matches are also in the Gillom Center.

Billy Chadwick's a little nervous but a lot excited about the start to yet another tennis season at Ole Miss. Today at 2 p.m., the sixth-ranked Rebels open in the Gillom Center against Big East Conference foe Louisville.

"The start of a new season is always exciting," Chadwick said. "We're ranked No. 6 in the country. That's important because that ranking put us into the National Team Indoor in February. The Top 12 teams and four at-large teams get invited. This is an exciting team because we return five of six players from last year."

Gone, of course, is one of the best ever to play here in Catalin Gard, a senior last season. Also Karim Alayli was a key player on the team the past several seasons who has now graduated.

Fredrik Aarum, a two-year veteran of the program, will not be here this semester. He is back home in Norway rehabbing an injury. Freddie had a lot of experience on the court for the Rebs the past two seasons, and his absence will be felt. Chadwick believes he will return in the fall.

"Freddie had a problem with his rotater cuff," Chadwick. "He did rehab on it all fall. He could practice but could not serve. In the fall all he played competitively was half a match. During Christmas at home, he still couldn't play. So he decided to rehab at home. He's on the national team there, so he has access to real good care. He felt it was in his best interests to stay there now and return here this fall."

Beginning this semester, Chadwick has added to his team Robbye Poole, a former player from Mississippi who played last year as a freshman at Clemson on a top 25 team, and also Ahmed El Tabakh from Tampa, Fla.

"We're excited about them," Chadwick said. "Robbye is a former No. 1 in the South in the 18s. He was a great pickup at mid-semester, especially with Freddie not being here. "

Poole went 2-1 in the recent SEC Indoors.

"Ahmed is a really good," Chadwick said. "He has a bright future here."

Chadwick's lineup for match one includes, in no certain order, Bram ten Berg, Jakob Klaeson, Eric Claesson, Juan Pablo Di Cesare, Erling Tveit, and Robbye Poole.

"This will be a tough match," Chadwick said of Louisville. "They're big, strong guys. We know them pretty well. They would be like an SEC team. They're good."

Chadwick, whose team made the Final Four last season and won its second straight SEC crown, says this team knows what it needs to do to be successful again. He believes they're ready for the season to begin.

"These guys have their goals set high," said Chadwick, whose team is picked to win the SEC West again. "They know what it's going to take. They have a very realistic approach, and they know that if we are not at our best, we don't beat Louisville, and that if we don't improve then we don't beat Florida, we don't beat Georgia. LSU's Top 10. Arkansas has the best team they've ever had. We have our work cut out for us this season, and we're ready to get started. This may be the strongest year I've ever seen in this conference.

"We have only one senior (Juan Pablo Di Cesare), so we're actually a young team," he said. "We're going to take some lumps, but these guys work hard and know what they want to do. I think you'll see a team that improves with every match."


Mark Beyer's Lady Rebels, picked to repeat as SEC West champions this season, open Saturday against UT-Chattanooga at 11 a.m. at the Gillom Center and Southern Mississippi Sunday at 1 p.m.

"We're excited," Beyers said. "We're tired of practicing against each other. We're looking forward to seeing other competition than ourselves."

Beyers says the two teams his troops will face this weekend are good.

"Tennessee-Chattanooga and Southern Mississippi are two solid teams, but we feel we should beat them," he said. "Not trying to put more pressure on our girls than they already have, but we feel these are two matches we can win. The players have worked hard and they can use this weekend to build on the rest of the season."

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