The Race for the Record
May 13, 2020
May 13, 2020
- Carlos Barron
Dimanche, the most decorated men’s tennis player in program history, will go on to have his pick between three quality Ph.D. programs in biomedical engineering. Dulthommon, Dimanche’s best friend and roommate, will be attending dental school.
Prior to the season, however, the duo took a quick detour from their chosen future professions to discuss, of all things, interior design.
You see, inside Head Coach Billy Porter’s office is a wall dedicated to all the accomplishments of the men’s and women’s tennis programs. The list of honorees includes school record holders, NCAA singles and doubles qualifiers, and a few All-Americans for good measure.
On June 5, Porter fired off an email that sent Dimanche and Dulthummon into a friendly debate over their coach’s decor. This season, it would be a matter of when, not if, Dimanche and Dulthummon would surpass class of 2017 alum Niko Snovely for most career wins in Southwestern men’s tennis history.
“It was Niko’s birthday, and Dean and Alexis were neck and neck at the time,” Porter said. “It really only became a big deal once they realized how close they were. So that kind of became their thing during their senior year.”
“Dean likes to do his thing; he doesn’t normally care about individual accolades too much,” Dimanche, the men’s program’s lone All-American, said. “But he told me, ‘you’re already on the wall; I’m going to be on the wall, too.”
“When we found out we were going to beat the record, we for sure talked about who was going to finish first,” Dulthummon said. “My personality, I don’t really [trash talk], but it was fun to just do our best and see who ended on top.”
Snovely, who held the record with 123 career wins, enthusiastically replied, “Allons-y!” which is French for “let’s go.”
It was an appropriate response for what is a heavily international program. Snovely was born in the Republic of Georgia, Dimanche was born in New Orleans but grew up in France, and Dulthummon comes from Tamarin, Mauritius, which is an island nation about 1,200 miles off the east coast of Africa.
For Dimanche and Dulthummon, French is more than their primary language. It was the starting point of a lifelong friendship.
“I was in the office, and [when] he walked in, I knew he was from France and he was going to be on the tennis team,” Dulthummon said. “We hit it off right away. We became best friends through tennis. That’s how it all started.”
“I met Dean at international orientation a week before everyone else arrived on campus freshman year, and we became friends right away,” Dimanche said. “It’s always nice, when you are thousands of miles away from home, to have someone you can connect with. We were both on the tennis team, both international, and both French speaking. That was enough to build trust.”
Dulthummon spent two years at New Braunfels High School before arriving at Southwestern. In high school, he was a tennis state champion.
“He was about as good a middle-of-the-lineup guy as you’re ever going to get. He won a lot of big matches,” Porter said. “He was an absolute gamer. He could take two weeks off, come back, and look like he never took a day off. He was always consistently good.”
On the court, Dulthummon was a natural talent, but he was an average student.
“Dean was a kid who was a borderline admin for Southwestern,” Porter said. “It didn’t come easy for him. English wasn’t his first language, and to not only get through our premed curriculum but to excel, it’s such an inspiring story, and that’s what makes me proudest of Dean.”
“I came in as a freshman with tennis as the number 1 priority,” Dulthummon said. “I’d get by with school, but at Southwestern, average isn’t enough.
“You have to work hard. At first, it was hard managing both. After my first semester at college, I got by with a 2.0, and it was borderline. I realized I needed to get my grades up, so I talked to Coach, and he worked with me.”
Dulthummon started working with his peers, especially Dimanche. The two friends trained together and rushed the same fraternity, spending enough time together to start picking up on each other’s best traits. Since his sophomore year, Dulhummon’s GPA has been at 3.4 or higher.
“I learned so many time-management skills and improved my work ethic,” Dulthummon said. “Alexis was a great example of a role model. His work ethic and discipline are incredible.”
Dimanche was born in New Orleans but moved to France at an early age. His father spoke French, and his mother spoke German, giving Dimanche fluency in three languages.
“I joke that I started speaking any language very late because I was around so many different ones,” Dimanche said. “My mom was speaking German, my dad was speaking French, and the kids in the United States were speaking English.”
Porter was the first coach to reach out to Dimanche, finding him on an online recruiting platform. Snovely recruited him heavily.
“I respect Niko so much. He’s a big part of the reason why I came to Southwestern,” Dimanche said. “He recruited me hard, especially when I came to visit. He was the best player in Southwestern history.”
Dimanche’s arrival marked a turning point for the Southwestern men’s tennis program. In his playing career, Dimanche has been All-SCAC each year, was the SCAC Newcomer of the Year in 2017, and was the SCAC Player of the Year in 2018, earning a NCAA singles qualifier and All-American status.
“He took our program from being a really good program with talent to a special program where they love tennis,” Porter said. “I think the biggest change he added to the program is instilling a culture where talent isn’t enough; you have to love the game. I think that’s been the biggest turning point from being a regionally ranked team to a perennial nationally ranked team.”
In their four years at Southwestern, Dimanche and Dulthummon have seen a lot of firsts in the men’s tennis program, ending in the highest national ranking in program history this season.
Perhaps none were bigger than the moment an unranked Southwestern team defeated No. 14 Trinity University in 2018.
The Pirates went up 2-1 in doubles but lost three consecutive singles to fall behind 2-4. Dimanche rolled off a win at No. 1 singles, and Alonso Fernandez tied the match at 4-4, with a victory at No. 6 singles; leaving Dulthummon left to decide the match.
“Dean will forever be a legend at Southwestern for this reason,” Porter said. “It came down to a winner-take-all against Trinity, and Dean just elevated his game and won a three-set tiebreaker 7-2 to score, without a doubt, the biggest win in program history.”
“I could see it in his eyes: he wasn’t going to lose that match,” Dimanche said. “He’s usually calm and never speaks, but you could see his body language ramp up a bit. He got more aggressive, yelled a couple of times. I trusted him. He’s a great player.”
“That’s forever fresh in my mind. I still get chills thinking about it,” Dulthummon said. “Just seeing my teammates on the court next to me and Trinity’s teammates across—it was incredible.
“I’ve played in a lot of tournaments around the world, played for my country, so I’d been there before. At that point, we were both physically tired so it was about who could be the toughest at the end.”
Dulthummon and Dimanche entered the season-one win apart, with Dimanche having the 111-110 edge. Dimanche was the first to surpass Snovely, tying Snovely with a singles win over St. Thomas and overtaking the 123 career wins with a singles victory over Mary Hardin–Baylor. Dulthummon hit 124 a few matches later in a doubles in a home win over LeTourneau.
Dimanche would finish two wins ahead of Dulthummon in the shortened season, ending his career with 131.
“We competed as best friends, and he came out on top by two matches. It was a great rivalry and incredible experience,” Dulthummon said. “He played No. 1, had all those wins, [and] he’s a big player for Southwestern. I’m happy he got the most wins.”
“We’ve been together since day one, and to have that little battle at the very end of our careers was sweet,” Dimanche said. “Dean is a competitor. Honestly, there’s a good chance he could’ve gotten it [if the season wasn’t cut short].”
Of the 131 career wins, perhaps Dimanche’s signature moment was one eerily similar to Dulthummon’s, forever linking the two.
On the road against No. 18 Redlands, Dimanche found himself in a third set against Andrew Leahy, with both teams deadlocked at 4-4 and all eyes on that final match.
“We came out a little tight, and I was angry I lost at No. 3 doubles because I knew it was probably going to be a 5-4 match,” Dimanche said. “I had a really bad start [in singles’] where nothing was working.”
The Pirates went down 2-1 in doubles. Hunter Bajoit tied it in singles at two apiece, but Redlands rattled off two consecutive victories to take a 4-2 lead. While Dimanche battled into the third set, Vesko Lekovic and Alexander Joseph managed to tie the match for Southwestern.
Dimanche struggled to close out the match, serving for the clinch and getting broken.
“Alexis has had some big matches going up a break and then serving for matches and getting broken,” Porter said.
With the teams gathering around to watch the fate of the match, something clicked.
“I wasn’t fully in the match. I let the second set slip, and I shouldn’t have,” Dimanche said. “Then in the third, I realized it was 4-4 and I was the last match on. Suddenly, it was a whole shift in focus. I went from going through the motions to knowing I had to play better to win us the match.” Dimanche credits his teammates’ support for helping to rally him. More importantly, he was able to draw on his best friend’s experience.
“As a senior, I’d never been in that kind of moment,” Dimanche said. “But Dean had, so I knew how to deal with it. That really helped.
“I won 7-5 in the third. It was an incredible feeling. I really hoped at some point in my career to clinch a 4-4, and to do it against Redlands was super special. I can still remember all my teammates running up to me and falling on top of each other.”
“I really enjoyed watching him in that moment,” Porter said. “For him to get broken and not mentally spiral out of control and overcome that adversity was a testament to him working at a weakness to make it a strength.”
Since Dimanche and Dulthummon’s arrival, Coach Porter’s wall has certainly grown more crowded, which is a credit to how these seniors have raised the bar.
For now, Dimanche’s photo hangs under the banner of most career wins. Whether it’s sophomore Hunter Bajoit or a future recruit, Dimanche says it’s a matter of when, not if, his own record will fall.
“I really hope [Hunter] can beat the record,” Dimanche said. “All I really want is the program to be better.”
In the end, it doesn’t matter whose picture hangs on the wall. Wherever the men’s tennis program goes from here, the friendship between Dimanche and Dulthummon will be cemented in its very foundations.
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