This past weekend, the Cal men’s tennis team faced some unexpected difficulties, but senior Ahmed Ismail stepped up and handled them with poise.
Carlos Cueto, a senior scheduled to play for the Bears in the Land Rover Napa Valley Tennis Classic, dropped out due to a sprained ankle, and was replaced by Ismail at the last minute.
On this first day of play, Ismail came out and earned the first win of the tournament for the Bears, beating Grant Ive of Tulsa 6-4, 6-4. The Bears also earned the final win of the tournament, with Andrews capturing the Classic’s crown.
Andrews’ first win of the tournament came on the heels of Ismail’s opening victory at the Meadowood Resort in St.Helena, Calif. Andrews and sophomore Ben McLachlan earned their Friday wins over USTA junior players.
“It is different playing them (the junior players), because they haven’t totally matured into their game yet,” Andrews said. “But they are still really good players and the matchups were good for everyone.”
Also on Friday, the doubles team of Andrews and McLachlan outplayed its Tennessee opponents, bringing the Bears’ total record for the day to 4-1.
In the second round of singles play starting on Saturday, Ismail defeated a highly ranked opponent in Casey Watt of Notre Dame, the very same player that Andrews beat last weekend in an exciting match at the Olympia Fields Country Club Invitational. The Bears ended Saturday adding four more wins to their tournament record and maintaining undefeated play for Ismail and Andrews.
On Sunday morning, the team was faced with another slight difficulty that it easily overcame in the form of inclement weather. The rain delayed play for a couple hours, but soon cleared up nicely, allowing the tournament to continue.
After making their way through the rounds of singles and proceeding tie-breaker shootout, Andrews and McLachlan were the last two competitors standing, and faced each other in the ultimate match of the tournament.
“I was actually happy to play Ben in the final,” Andrews said. “It really showed how strong our team is.”
In the final match, the first to 10 points would emerge the winner. Andrews was losing 7-5 when he got a made a successful volley that McLachlan missed, effectively turning the momentum in the senior’s favor. After battling back and forth, the match ended with score of 10-7 with Andrews as the victor.
“At first we were both a bit nervous and making a lot of mistakes, but after a bit we got into it and started to play really well,” Andrews said.
The win earned Andrews the prestigious Norman Minor Sportsmanship Award and a wildcard bid into a USTA sponsored event in the future.
“Overall it was a good day for the Bears,” assistant coach Tyler Browne said. “The tournament won’t directly affect our ranking as a team, but it was still great practice and a great confidence booster.”