College Grad Verbeek Takes First Pro Steps In Stockton
Dutch player competes in biggest Challenger main draw to date
After graduating from college this year, Sem Verbeek is now ready to graduate onto a pro tennis career.
The 22 year old from the Netherlands took another step towards that at this week’s $100,000 ATP Challenger Tour event in Stockton, California. Verbeek received a main draw wild card for his success as a player at Stockton-based University of the Pacific and fittingly drew reigning NCAA champion Mackenzie McDonald in the first round. Although he lost in straight sets on Tuesday, he said the match was an experience that will serve him well.
“Coming home is always a great experience, especially getting to play at this level. There’s a lot to learn, but that’s what makes these matches exciting,” said Verbeek. “Obviously the result sucks, but that’s what makes you more hungry to go out there and work hard.”
The Dutch player rebounded the following day with a big win in doubles. Teaming up with his former college doubles partner, Jose Chamba Gomez of Ecuador, the wild card pairing scored a first-round upset over top seeds Andres Molteni of Argentina and Hans Podlipnik-Castillo of Chile.
Verbeek completed his senior year on the team with an 18-2 record, earning him a selection as West Coast Conference men’s tennis Player of the Year. But while he hopes to one day have a similar record on the ATP World Tour, he admitted there will be a steep learning curve initially.
“The biggest difference is the base. They hit the ball a little harder and a little bit faster than college players. They reach a level of tennis that I have in me, but find hard to produce consistently now,” said Verbeek. “The opportunities lie in some very small corners and these guys take advantage of them because they’re professionals.”
Verbeek kicked off his pro career last month and has played four tournaments so far, all in California. He’ll now head back to the Netherlands to train and figure out his next tournaments, but is optimistic that this is the beginning of a long career.
“There are some mental and technical errors that I can’t make anymore at this level, so that’s what I’m working on now to make these types of matches mine,” said Verbeek. “I’m excited to get this process started and get to work. It’s going to take a lot of improvement on my part, but I’m ready for it. This is what I want to do.”