Sibling Rivalry Headlines Men’s Tennis Matchup With Middlebury

Posted on May 19th, 2017 by

ST. PETER, Minn. – After coming off a 5-4 upset of the University of Chicago in a NCAA Regional Final match the past weekend, the Gustavus Men’s Tennis team looks forward to facing Middlebury College in its first NCAA Tournament Quarterfinal match since 2009 on Monday. First-year Yassine Derbani (Casablanca, Morocco) is especially excited to face the Panthers as his older brother, Hamid, is a senior leader on the Middlebury squad.

Gustavus and Middlebury previously faced each other on March 27 during the Gusties’ spring trip in Austin, Texas with the Panthers prevailing by a score of 7-2. The match marked the first time the Casablanca, Morroco natives competed against one another and the next could be the last.

“It was kind of weird the first time playing against each other,” Yassine commented. “To be honest, my goal before the season was to meet him at nationals. Not just to watch, but to play because it is his senior year and is the last chance to play against him.”

Hamid is one of two seniors on the Middlebury squad, ranked as the No. 17 player in the Northeast Region of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Division III rankings and competes in the No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles positions for the Panthers.

“He has always been a role model to me. Knowing that he wants to win a national championship, there is going to be no mercy,” said Yassine. 

In his first season in Black and Gold, Yassine has posted a 21-9 overall singles record while holding down the No. 6 singles position and competing in the No. 3 doubles spot. He went unbeaten at 6-0 during Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play and earned a MIAC Athlete of the Week award on April 4.

“Playing Gustavus again in the NCAA Quarterfinals definitely ramps up the pressure a bit,” said Hamid. “Our goal is to go all the way this year, but I will be happy for Yassine regardless of the outcome.”

Yassine and Hamid

Growing up, Hamid was first introduced to tennis by their father while Yassine followed in his older brother’s footsteps.

“I actually started playing tennis because of him (Hamid). I think I was four of five years old and I saw him playing tournaments and thought it was super cool and I wanted to do the same. He was good at it so I kind of wanted to be as good as him.”

With hopes of playing tennis competitively after high school, Hamid decided the United States was the best option to pursue the combination of athletics and academics. He ended up at a community college in Texas before heading to Middlebury.

A connection between the Middlebury Head Coach Bob Hansen and Gustavus Head Coach Tommy Valentini then led Yassine to St. Peter, Minn.

“The tennis community in Morocco is fairly small and close-knit. Unlike the United States, there are only a few hard courts and all the tournaments are played on red clay. You learn to slide on the court and play long rallies because the surface is slower. As far as competition goes, there are many more tournaments in the U.S. and the level is generally higher,” said Hamid.

“It was kind of difficult at first,” Yassine noted about the transition. “It is mainly the courts and the small details. In Morocco, you always have ball boys and chair advisers. Here it is totally different, you have to do everything by yourself, so that was kind of different.”

The match will be extra special, as parents Omar and Fadela Derbani are making the 16-hour flight to watch their sons compete at the big stage.

“I am just super excited, I can’t wait,” Yassine said about the family gathering.

Yassine also confirmed the sibling rivalry is alive and the two have bantered back and forth, “Oh yeah, I mean just for fun, but yeah.”

“I am glad to wrap up my collegiate career this way with my family around me,” commented Hamid.

Gustavus faces Middlebury on Monday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. eastern time in Chattanooga, Tenn. Read the quarterfinal match preview HERE.


One Comment

  1. Andrea Lipovetz says:

    What an amazing experience for you both! Congrats and good luck!