All that’s left for the Cal men’s tennis team this fall is one final tournament.
But the Bears’ last event — the USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships — is the largest and most prestigious tournament of the fall preseason.
There will only be two Cal players competing in the competition; the McLachlan brothers secured berths to the National Indoors at the Northwest Regional Championships on Oct. 23.
Hosted by Columbia University from Nov. 8 to 11 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., the tournament will feature top players from across the country in a field of 32 singles players and 20 doubles teams.
“It’s comparable to the NCAAs of the spring season,” Cal head coach Peter Wright said. “You basically play with the elite of the elite.”
Ben and Riki McLachlan have already faced elite competition from their region to just to make it this far. The two qualified for the tournament after the duo won the doubles title, and No. 16 Ben McLachlan won the singles crown at the USTA/ITA Northwest Regional Championships.
However, this event will showcase champions from each of the 12 Division I USTA/ITA Regional Championships. In addition, the tournament will feature the winners of the National Small College Super Bowl, the ITA All-Americans, as well as a few at-large and wild card selections.
The top-ranked player in the Campbell/ITA preseason rankings — Henrique Cunha of Duke — will make an appearance in the doubles field. The event will also exhibit two-time and reigning ITA All-American singles champion No. 8 Alex Domijan, as well as No. 2 Jarmere Jenkins, both from Virginia.
This year, to face against the best of the best, Cal will send the McLachlan doubles team, and more important, its first singles player to qualify for the tournament since 2003.
“I went last year but only played in doubles,” Ben McLachlan said. “This year, I’ll be playing with my brother and in the singles field, which will be really exciting.”
Ben and Riki McLachlan have different game styles on the court in terms of how they hit offensively and defensively. As a result, the brothers do not usually pair up as a doubles team.
However, the two have been playing and practicing together ever since their junior careers before college. According to Wright, their chemistry on the court is evident in the way the two can easily communicate on and off the court.
“They’re well suited to play with each other even if they haven’t doubled up in a few years,” Wright said. “They know each other well and I think they’ll surprise a lot of people this weekend.”
The performance of the two McLachlans at the tournament will ultimately determine the entire team’s ranking in the spring. Although the pair’s results this weekend have implications for the Bears’ future, Wright is not so much concerned about the ranking as he is about how the Bears will play come spring season.
“At the end of the day, whether you’re ranked high or low at the start of the spring doesn’t really matter,” Wright said. “What matters is how you finish, and I think we have a good shot this year.”
Janice Chua covers men’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected]