Wednesday, July 6, 2022

The Banker Is Back for Rebel Tennis

By Mac Hendrix

IMC Student

Courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics

On a gloomy spring day, the constant back and forth of tennis balls rallying across the multiple courts greets you upon entry to the William F. Galtney Indoor Tennis Center at Ole Miss.

As practice concluded, former Ole Miss tennis star and current assistant coach Kalle Norberg was among those in the facility. In his four-year playing stint for the Rebels from 2007 to 2011, Norberg earned All-SEC honors in his first three seasons, accumulating 81 wins in singles, which puts him 13th all-time in Ole Miss history.

He was given the nickname “The Banker” while Ole Miss, and his face quickly lit up when reminiscing about his college success.

“I guess it was because I had a pretty good record here, so the coaches kind of counted on me to win,” Norberg said.

Norberg has now returned in a different role for the Rebel tennis program, adapting to the coaching side of the sport. Growing up nearly 5,000 miles away, Norberg explained his upbringing through tennis.

“I moved to Uppsala, Sweden, when I was in eighth grade. I was there for two years then went to a sports high school for three years. Then came here after that. In America, you play for a team. There are more team matches. Before that (in Sweden), there were a lot more individual tournaments and practices. Tennis is much different on a team compared to doing it by yourself.

“I was first recruited by Billy Chadwick, the (Ole Miss) head coach at the time. I also knew a few Swedish guys who used to play here and encouraged me to come. The language, food, and culture were a big transition. We had some Europeans on the team already, including two or three Swedish guys.”

Current Ole Miss head coach Toby Hansson was at Ole Miss as well.

“Toby was an assistant coach back then. He is also Swedish. So it was Mississippi, but being around a lot of Europeans helped,” Norberg said.

On Sept. 3, 2021, Ole Miss announced that Norberg would be coming back to Oxford as an assistant coach.

“It’s a bit different,” he said of coaching than playing. “It’s the same feeling of competitiveness every time we play a match though. You want to win, of course. When you’re playing, it’s in your hands. I would say it’s almost easier to play than coach. This is my first year as an assistant coach, so everything is pretty new.”

Norberg’s time away from Ole Miss was filled with accomplishments. He coached the top-ranked player in Sweden, Mikael Ymer, who has been ranked as high as 67th in the world, as well as teaching at one of Sweden’s oldest and most prestigious tennis clubs, SALK (Stockholms Allmänna Lawntennis Klubb). 

“Before (returning), I was coaching back in Sweden. I worked for a club and with some professional guys on the ATP Tour. I worked with Mikael Ymer for two years mostly at home and went to a few tournaments on tour for a few weeks out of the year,” Norberg said. 

This season, Norberg explained the trials and tribulations of the Rebels’ year in tennis. Like any sport, there have been ups and downs. 

“We started off the season pretty good, qualifying for the National Indoors and won one round there. Then, we had a few tough weeks going from indoors to outdoors. It’s a bit of a transition, especially with the amount of Europeans we have on the team since they are accustomed to playing inside rather than outside. 

“We (Europeans) play indoors roughly eight or nine months out of the year, so it’s quite a big difference considering the court conditions. It took us a few weeks, but hopefully, that win against Mississippi State will help us finish the season strong,” Norberg said a few weeks ago.

His hope turned to reality. Norberg and the Rebels finished the season winning five out of their last six matches, including two huge Southeastern Conference wins against 44th-ranked Arkansas and 50th-ranked Vanderbilt. 

On April 21, the Rebels lost a heartbreaking match against 30th-ranked Auburn, falling 4-3 in the second round of the SEC tournament. 

But, just like when Norberg was playing at Ole Miss, the Rebels will continue playing in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. They face Utah in the first round in Fort Worth, Texas.

This will be the 28th consecutive season for Ole Miss men’s tennis to make the NCAA Tournament field, and the 30th time in the program’s history.


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