The Ole Miss Men’s Tennis Team recently began playing again, and they have a long tradition of being one of the better programs in the country.
The team is headed by a group of two seniors, one junior, and four freshman who must gain experience in their first year at the college level.
Tim Sandkaulan, the star of this young and promising team, is originally from Germany. He knew he wanted to play somewhere in the U.S for his college career and found a home at Ole Miss.
“I had a friend that is currently a senior who played here that told me about it,” he said, “and then our head coach [Toby Hansson] is from Sweden and speaks German, so having him be able to understand the jump helped a lot.”
While having a few connections to the University of Mississippi, Sandkaulan knew it was the place for him after visiting.
“I would also say the tradition we have here was a big pull for me,” he said. “We have made 24 straight NCAA appearances, and that’s the second longest in the nation.”
Sandkaulan said he’s made some relationships on the tennis team that he will always remember. “My best friends are on the tennis team, as I spend just about all of my time with them,” he said, “so I would say the team has great chemistry and supports each other and pushes each other because we are such a close group.”
The team is headed by the strong, right-handed junior, who finished his sophomore season ranked 23rd as an individual and is peering at an All-American honor at the end of this season.
“Last year, I finished right outside of the line to become an All-American, and this year, I would love to progress and reach that top 20 mark, and maximize my talent and show what skills I have,” Sandkaulan said.
The team will rely heavily on Sandkaulan and the two seniors, Filip Krajlevic and Fabian Fallert, who are also from Germany. Sebastian Rios, an incoming freshman and Mississippi native, said he plans to make the most of his time on the court.
“The player to look out for is Tim, no questions about that,” Rios said. “He is one of the most talented players in the country. He’s too humble to tell you that though. He’s a great guy as well as a great player. In the time I have on the court, I plan to fight for every point and play to the best of my ability and try and win some matches for the team.”
It is a personal game for Rios, who has been an Ole Miss fan since he can remember, and he plans to defend the school he loves and play to the best of his abilities. He understands his role is important in providing depth to the team.
The Rebels have the second-longest active NCAA tournament streak, making an appearance the past 24 seasons and making it to the second round of the tournament in all of those seasons. The team began the season 5-3, but have fallen out of the top 25.
“We have that streak, which is something that we pride ourselves on, and I think as a team, we feel that we don’t want to be the ones to break that, so making the tournament is the first thing on our minds,” Sandkaulan said.
Sandkaulan and the Rebels are playing with that streak on their mind as the pressure builds with the season reaching SEC play soon, and the tournament starting May 5. Sandkaulan said he is playing for the team, but also has aspirations for the next level after college that make this season that much more important to him.
“I plan to try and become a professional and see how the first couple years go,” he said, “but if everything goes well this year and my senior year, I see no reason why I could not make my dream come true.”