Joe Dodson, Contributing Writer
Sophomore Charles Bertimon has had a fast start to collegiate tennis. In his first season, he went 9-1 in singles and displayed his athletic style of play before it was cut short when VCU’s spring sports were canceled due to the coronavirus.
Bertimon’s athleticism is unique to the sport. He covers the whole net with his speed and jumping ability. He sat out last year due to eligibility rules but quickly became a leader for this season’s young team.
“My strengths are power and playing with my physical abilities,” Bertimon said. “I would say I’m very aggressive, but I’m still trying to define my game.”
Bertimon was paired with freshman Lleyton Cronje as the top doubles duo for the majority of the spring season. Cronje likes to joke with Bertimon about his unique athleticism. His power, speed and strength make him stand out during matches.
“I keep telling him that he chose the wrong sport to play,” Cronje said. “He could play any sport.”
Bertimon grew up in a track-and-field household. He and his twin brother, Maxence, decided to give tennis a try at the age of 10. His local club saw him and his brother and told them to join. Bertimon and his brother had the same tennis trainer throughout grade school and played together in many tournaments.
“My twin and I are very connected, very close,” Bertimon said. “I had to make this decision, but being away from him was really tough.”
A big reason Bertimon chose VCU after receiving interest from multiple programs is because of coach Anthony Rossi meeting him in France. They talked about what Bertimon could expect from the new challenge, and he was up for it. Bertimon liked that he and his coaches came from similar backgrounds as European natives.
Bertimon’s work ethic is inspired by and came from studying champions like Usain Bolt to see how they achieve greatness and what mentality it takes to get there.
“Kobe Bryant was one of the athletes that I respected the most because of his work ethic,” Bertimon said. “I love watching videos about how champions train and how they think.”
Rossi says his work ethic combined with his abilities and eagerness to learn has made him a valuable asset to the team.
“He is very athletic too, and also he is coachable,” Rossi said. “Those are things that as a coach you really want to have on the team because he is the easiest guy to work with.”
Bertimon and Cronje paired well together, going 4-2. In their match against Iowa on Feb. 29th they were up 5-4 against a top-15 doubles pair in junior Will Davies and sophomore Oliver Okonkwo, but the match ended due to time.
“Good chemistry, good communication and, I would say, he makes me confident on the court,” Bertimon said. “That is why I like to play with him.”
Cronje likes playing with Bertimon because of the energy he brings to each match. The duo are usually the loudest on the court.
“We combine nicely because we have the same amount of energy on the tennis court,” Cronje said.
Bertimon draws from his dream of becoming a professional player for motivation before each match. Personal accolades are great, but the team’s success is what’s most important to Bertimon.
“The team is a big part of my motivation,” Bertimon said. “For myself, I’m just grateful to be here. I want to do my best and not have any regrets. The motivation never goes down.”
Bertimon has become close friends with his teammates. He and Cronje spent the holidays together playing tournaments and enjoying the country.
“We spent Christmas and New Year’s together in New York, where we went to go see the ball drop,” Cronje said. “You really start knowing a guy when you step away from the tennis court, and Charles is a very interesting character.”
Cronje is excited to see how far their partnership can go. They have already discussed post- graduation plans.
“Honestly I don’t think there is a limit,” Cronje said about the potential of their partnership. “We are still both young, and we both have a couple of years left and I think that after college we will both still play doubles on the pro tour.”
Bertimon’s energy is infectious on and off the court, Cronje said.
“He is always bringing the energy to the room,” Cronje said. “He is like a light bulb.”
Bertimon keeps everyone in a good mood during practice and matches, but his work ethic is what his team respects most about him.
“He is the funny guy, the guy that brings a lot of energy,” Rossi said. “But also the guy who everybody looks up to because he is the hardest worker.”
His hard work has paid off as he won his first Atlantic 10 player of the week award in February. Rossi says he sees no limit to Bertimon’s success.
“I believe that he has the potential to be an All-American,” Rossi said. “He is definitely working for it and acting like one.”