Men’s tennis leans on veteran duo heading into NCAA opener

Media Credit: Lexi Berger | Hatchet Photographer

Viktor Svensson, left, and Ulrik Thomsen, right, practice on GW's courts.

Media Credit: Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Senior Viktor Svensson lunges for a return last week. Svensson is one of the senior leaders of a Colonials squad with the No. 1 seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament.

Men’s tennis head coach Greg Munoz said seniors Viktor Svensson and Ulrik Thomsen were “a little nervous” when they joined his team as freshmen in 2010.

The pair faced an intimidating challenge: ending a 32-year drought in A-10 championship wins.

As a doubles duo they delivered, going 10-4 as the No. 3 doubles team their freshman season. Thomsen and Svensson’s contributions helped the Colonials win their second-ever conference championship and qualify for a first-ever appearance at the NCAA Championship Tournament.

Now, as seniors, the two lead a No. 52-ranked team that has maintained a winning record since 2010. The group has won the league championship three out of the last four years, most recently beating VCU for the title in April.

The Colonials are just days away from an opening round match-up against the University of South Carolina at this weekend’s NCAA tournament. This will be Svensson and Thomsen’s third tournament appearance in four seasons.

Media Credit: Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Ulrik Thomsen serves the ball in GW’s 5-2 victory over Georgetown.

“We’re probably going to be nervous again, but I think that’s normal,” Svensson said, “I think we’ve learned a lot these three years, so hopefully we can use that to our advantage.”

The two have developed as leaders of the team that has transformed into an Atlantic 10 favorite. By the end of their freshman season, the Colonials finished 15-9 overall, a seven-win improvement from the 2009-2010 season.

“I think the first year was so important because the atmosphere was like we always kept losing and losing, but it kind of changed at that point,” Thomsen said.

Svensson said the team’s dominant 4-0 win over Xavier in the 2011 A-10 Championship finals boosted the team, which had been the top seed at the tournament three years in a row but was knocked out every time. The players started to notice a shift in the team’s culture.

“When we won the A-10s and we started to beat a couple of ranked opponents, that really changed everyone’s perspective,” Svensson said. “Everyone gets a little more confident. We’re able to recruit better players, and the program just keeps on building and I think that’s the main change.”

Media Credit: Lexi Berger | Hatchet Photographer
Viktor Svensson, left, and Ulrik Thomsen, right, practice on GW’s courts.

Svensson and Thomsen both credited Munoz for their development on the court. The two seniors and Munoz are the only only thread that connects the Colonials last three conference championships.

Thomsen said Munoz along with newly added assistant coach and former NCAA standout Philippe Oudshoorn have helped take the team’s play “a notch further.”

Svensson and Thomsen, who arguably have been a part of one of the most successful teams in program history, said two championships in their GW careers have made them the proudest: 2011’s final triumph after a history of let downs and this year’s bounce-back win to reclaim the conference title from VCU.

On the court, the players are nothing but synchronous. The team is 11-8 in doubles play this season, making up part of a Colonials team that heads into Saturday’s NCAA opener with an impressive 17-6 overall.

Munoz said the duo is playing “the best tennis [of their GW careers].” No longer nervous freshmen, the seniors have just one more goal: an NCAA win.

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