For the first time in his collegiate career, Nick Andrews spent his weekend on the top court.
The senior had played alongside doubles teammate Chris Konigsfeldt on court No. 1 in past games, but typically in singles matches he anchored the middle courts, while Cal’s ranked standout Pedro Zerbini soldiered through top-court competition.
Yet in this weekend’s Cal-hosted ITA Kick-Off, Andrews suddenly found himself in Zerbini’s long-held spot for his singles rounds. In Sunday’s match against LSU, Andrews and Konigsfeldt dominated the Tigers’ top doubles team, 8-4. But Andrews stayed on the first court for the singles round, delivering his opponent a neat 6-4, 6-2, overturning that sealed the match for Cal.
And Andrews wasn’t done there. He came back on Monday to spend the entirety of No. 13 Cal’s 4-0 sweep of the University of San Diego (2-1) in that top-court slot.
Despite topping No. 25 Minnesota the day before, the Toreros didn’t stand a chance against Cal. USD only won one set. With this win, Cal automatically qualified for next month’s National Team Indoors for the first time since 2004.
Cal (3-0) swept the doubles portion but only after a comeback from Andrews and Konigsfeldt. At one point, the duo fell behind, 4-1, to Nikola Bubnic and Thibaut Visy.
According to coach Peter Wright, the Bears were trying too hard to nail big serves rather than focusing on their superior returning skills; if they continued to play that way, they would lose.
But while Andrews and Konigsfeldt were down 4-1, the other two Cal tandems were each on the opposite end of that exact score. Just knowing that their other teammates could win took the pressure off the top duo — enough so that Andrews and Konigsfeldt launched a seven-game run that suffocated their opponents, 8-4.
“It was really good to see the two teams,” Andrews said. “It’s really a team effort, and the guys took the pressure off on our serves, so we were able to return really well.”
But Andrews faltered when it came time to take the top court solo. He gave up an early lead in the first set, and Bubnic quickly stole two consecutive games to take the first set, 7-5.
“He is never out of a match,” Wright said. “He’s a tough buy to beat because he doesn’t go away.”
Andrews started to reflect that attitude halfway through the second set. Finally reading his opponent, he adjusted his game. He brought the set to a 5-5 tie. Even if he won two consecutive games to take the set, he would still have to fight for the tiebreaker.
But Andrews was saved by what Wright deemed Cal’s greatest asset: its deep back courts. Konigsfeldt, freshman Gregory Bayane and senior Ahmed Ismail all easily stole their respective matches to deliver Cal the win.
“We got a win from every single guy on this team throughout the weekend, and that to me is critical,” Wright said. “It doesn’t matter how we get to four, we just want to get to four.”