Playing in front of family and friends, Tennessee freshman Sean Karl won his first two collegiate singles matches Thursday to open the SEC Fall Classic in Nashville.
Diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma cancer less than a year ago, Karl played his first tournament last week at the Southern Intercollegiate Championships in Athens, Ga.
As a native of nearby Brentwood, Karl had no shortage of supporters in the stands watching him play. For most of them, it was the first time they had seen him play in a tennis match since starting treatments last October.
“It was fun playing in front of them,” Karl said in a UT release. “I haven’t been able to do that in a long time. I think it was fun for both me and them.”
Ewing’s sarcoma cancer is a rare form of bone cancer that mainly affects adolescents and children.
Karl started the day with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-3 win over Pen Binet of Vanderbilt and followed that with a long 6-3, 7-6 victory against Juan Marino of Arkansas.
“In my second match, I didn’t think I could go quite as long,” Karl said. “I was trying to finish up some points a little quicker, especially at the beginning. As the match went on, the points gradually got longer. Being ahead the whole match really helped me.”
Juniors Hunter Reese and Brandon Fickey and freshman Markus Kerner also advanced to the third round.
Reese, the tournament’s No. 3 seed, defeated Auburn’s Dante Selah 7-6, 6-7, 6-2. Fickey, a 9-16 seed, broke serve at the end of his match to beat Tito Moreiras of Texas A&M 7-6, 6-4. Playing his match indoors, Kerner recovered from a six-game slide in the first set to beat Vanderbilt’s Mason Vierra 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Senior Jarryd Chaplin and freshman Sunay Bhat lost their opening matches and will play consolation.
In doubles, the Vols did not fare as well with their three new doubles pairings losing in the first round.