Senior Drabble Nears End Of One Chapter

April 15, 2010

Over the past four years, Derek Drabble has been a mainstay in the lineup for the Husky men's tennis team. A constant presence in the middle of the lineup, Drabble has authored numerous huge wins for a Husky program that has posted a winning record every year of his career, as well as reaching the NCAA Championships each season. Yet even as a four-year starter with over 200 singles and doubles matches under his belt, Drabble has always felt privileged to don the Husky gear, and has never taken it for granted.

This Saturday, Drabble will take to the UW home courts for the final time, as the only senior to be recognized in the Senior Day match with the Oregon Ducks, set for a 2 p.m. first serve. It will be the 92nd match played by the Huskies since the start of Drabble's freshman year in 2007, and it will be Drabble's 88th time suiting up.

'I'm super excited about the match, but at the same time a little sad that it is my last match. I've just been focusing on going out there and playing a good match, and hopefully get a 'W',' Drabble says. 'I'm really proud of how this team has been doing, and I think we're going to be doing really well come NCAA.'

A captain now during his senior season, Drabble traveled a long ways to Seattle, like many of his current Husky teammates. A native of Johannesburg, South Africa, where rugby and soccer usually trump tennis, Drabble looked for the chance to continue his tennis career in college, and came in touch with Husky head coach Matt Anger.

'Coach Anger came down on a visit, and I liked him a lot. He's a very classy guy,' says Drabble. 'Knowing that he was a really good tennis player, and knowing how much he loves the sport, I was just sold right away. I wanted to come here and I wanted to be working with him. It was a choice I'm happy I made and if I could go back I'd do the same thing.'

Drabble doesn't hesitate in saying that Coach Anger has helped him in ways far beyond honing his booming serve or the crisp volleys that have made him one of the winningest doubles players in Washington history.

'He's been great, just helping me become a better person, and also growing up and becoming more of a man,' Drabble says. 'Coming here, not knowing what to expect, knowing that I'd be working with somebody great like Matt (was reassuring). It's funny, in a way he's become almost a second father. He and (associate head coach Chris Russell) have both been great.'

Over the years, Drabble has come up big in a number of huge matches, often swinging critical 4-3 matches in Washington's favor. Last season, Drabble was one of the winners against Texas Tech, when UW came back from 3-0 down to beat the Red Raiders in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

As a sophomore, Drabble had a third-set tiebreak win that led the Huskies to a victory over 10th-ranked Alabama in the National Indoors, and he also clinched a 4-3 win over defending NCAA Champion Pepperdine that same season. Going back to his freshman year, Drabble was a straight-set winner in UW's NCAA first round match against Wisconsin, and he also made the Pac-10 Invitational singles final.

'Those are big highlights for me, just being able to compete for the team,' says Drabble. 'Winning against Texas Tech, the National Indoors that we hosted my sophomore year, playing at Georgia in qualifying for the National Indoors, those are some matches that stand out for me on which I'm really going to be looking back with a smile on my face, knowing that I was really fortunate to be a part of all that.'

While Drabble has relished his time on campus and in Seattle, he plans to return to Johannesburg after the season to reunite with a tight-knit family that he's been away from for the better part of four years. A Religious Studies major, Drabble says he will have a few credits left to finish up, and is looking into independent study or online course options to complete his degree.

'Religion in general has always been something that interested me. Coming here and seeing that the University offered that, I decided to take it. It doesn't feel like schoolwork to me. I can sit down and really enjoy catching up on reading, going to lectures, finding out a little bit more about that, and it's something I do because I enjoy it, that's the main purpose why I decided to do it,' Drabble says. 'I knew that later on down the line if I went back home I could get back into engineering when I didn't have the demands of tennis or traveling.'

With both his father and grandfather working as mechanical engineers, Drabble may follow that path for his professional career as well, though he wants to keep competing on the courts a while first.

'Once I'm done, I think I'll go out on the tour and play a bit, see how that works out,' Drabble says. 'But I definitely plan on going back home. I'm really close to the family and I'm going to live back there. My grandfather and my dad, they have their own individual engineering companies, and I might fall back into that and work with them and help them. Even maybe go back to school there and study, and get the practical hands-on experience with mechanical engineering.'

Drabble has found his most on-court success in doubles play, where he led the team in wins as a freshman and junior. With 68 doubles wins and counting, Drabble ranks eighth on UW's career doubles wins list. Last year he and junior Martin Kildahl reached the Pac-10 semifinals, and were ranked 11th heading into the fall season after finishing last year 31st. Unfortunately, Kildahl had a foot injury that kept him out of the fall season, and the two lost their high standing, but a win in their last match at Cal shows they are still a very strong duo.

Still, no matter how far the Huskies go in the NCAA tournament this year, Drabble knows that it's the teammates he shares it with that have meant the most.

'The biggest thing is definitely the friendships I've made over the years. Andy Kuharszky, Alex Slovic, the guys that were before me, and the guys on the team now like Jeevan,' says Drabble. 'The whole team experience has been great for me. Tennis has always been an individualistic sport for me where you celebrate the victories on your own, and you suffer the losses on your own. And just being in the team environment, being able to share things and emotions with guys on the team, and have those bonds and friendships is definitely what I'm going to be remembering the most.'

Drabble will return to a family he left four years ago, but knows he will now have to leave a second family behind.

'I feel very blessed and fortunate to be here, it's been great for me, and definitely been a privilege and an honor being a part of the Husky family.'

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