It’s the oldest saying in the book, but practice makes perfect.
This weekend, the Cal men’s tennis team will take that idea to heart as it prepares to send 12 players to compete in two different tournaments.
Between Friday and Sunday, the entire team minus junior Ben McLachlan will be split into two groups. One will have the chance to challenge No. 1 USC and No. 6 Pepperdine in the Battle in the Bay. The other will compete against nearby opponent UC Davis at the UCSB Tennis Classic.
McLachlan, the only Cal player to compete at the ITA Men’s All-American Championships last weekend, will be taking a rest this weekend.
Five newcomers — four freshmen and sophomore walk-on Jack Sanford — will be playing in their first or second tournaments in college. The coaches are looking to give the new faces more opportunities to play and showcase their strengths during the fall.
“Each player is different in terms of what they want their fall preseason to look like,” said assistant coach Tyler Browne. “Some of the younger kids will tend to play in more events because they’re trying to prove to us coaches what they can do.”
Hosted by the University of San Francisco at the California Tennis Club, the Battle in the Bay will feature top players from Division I schools such as USC, Stanford, Duke and Pepperdine.
The tournament will display tougher competition that that at the UCSB Classic. The Bears will send four of their strongest players to the fourth annual event: seniors Christoffer Konigsfeldt and Riki McLachlan, junior Campbell Johnson and freshman Mads Engsted.
The Battle in the Bay is an ITA-sanctioned event that will count for NCAA Division I singles and doubles rankings. However, Cal will treat it like any other fall tournament: just another opportunity to play more matches in preparation for the spring.
“We’re not trying to focus on winning or losing,” said freshman Mads Engsted.
Although the players practice every day as a team, each player’s preparation is individualized. For instance, Engsted is specifically working on developing his forehand during the preseason.
Farther down the state, five sophomores and three freshmen will compete at the UCSB Classic down in Santa Barbara.
Sophomore Gregory Bayane, who just last weekend captured his first singles title at the Aggie Invitational, will be the top player amongst the younger players.
“We’re not going down there thinking we’re going to win every single flight, but we want our freshmen and sophomores to have a good showing,” Browne said.
With the spring season rapidly approaching, the team will be focused specifically on the decisions they make on the court.
In these next few months, the Bears will be practicing so that they are able to look at the bigger picture and confidently choose which shots and angles to hit.
“We’re looking to get more higher-percentage plays,” Browne said. “Our goal is for the team to be successful in choosing which backhand shot to make, or what part of the court to hit at — and it’s at these tournaments that they can show us what they’ve learned.”
Janice Chua covers men’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected]