At the prestigious USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships this weekend, the McLachlan brothers of the Cal men’s tennis team played against the most elite players in the nation.
But once the serve was broken during a game, the match ultimately went to the singles player or doubles pair who returned the breakpoint serve to win the set.
“Breaking the serve set the tone for the rest of the match because it was so hard to break it back and recover,” head coach Peter Wright said.
At the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., Ben McLachlan won his first match on Thursday but lost to top-seeded Alex Domijan of Virginia in the round of 16.
The doubles partnership of Ben and Riki McLachlan reached as far as the quarterfinals round to fall to third-seeded pair of Jarmere Jenkins and Mac Styslinger, also from Virginia.
“Every match you win in that tournament is a quality win over a top player in the country,” Wright said. “We saw very strong performances from the two this weekend.”
On the first day of play, Ben McLachlan, the first singles player from Cal to qualify for the tournament since 2003, topped Daniel Whitehead of Texas, 6-2, 6-1. Although the score speaks otherwise, the match was not an easy victory for Ben McLachlan simply because Whitehead was part of the elite competition he faced at the national tournament.
“He was a pretty good player,” McLachlan said. “But I served and returned well, and I think that’s why I won the match.”
In the round of 16, McLachlan went head-to-head with Virginia’s 6-foot-8 Domijan and lost in two sets, 7-6(5), 6-1. In the first set, McLachlan and Domijan rallied back-and-forth for points until the set came down to a tiebreaker.
The two battled point by point again until the score was 5-5 in the tiebreaker, but Domijan ultimately clinched the last two points to win the set.
“It could’ve gone either way because there was just a one point difference,” Wright said. “But I think (Domijan’s win) really set the tone for the rest of the match.”
After Domijan broke McLachlan’s serve in the second set, McLachlan could not come back.
“In the end, he played better than I did in the second set,” Ben McLachlan said. “I played some loose points and I lost.”
The McLachlan brothers fared better in doubles, making it to the quarterfinals round of the tournament after defeating the Georgia Tech pair of Vikram Hundal and Juan Spir, 8-6. At 7-6, the brothers broke Hundal and Spir’s serve for the first time to win the match.
“They had a lot of chances to get up on us, but we held our serves,” Riki McLachlan said. “It was one of those matches that could have gone either way, but we happened to play a couple of good points at the end.”
In their last match of the tournament, Jenkins and Styslinger broke the McLachlan brothers down early on in the match. Once their serve was broken, the McLachlans could not return their opponents’ strong serves and the two were eventually edged by the Cavaliers, 8-4.
Despite the McLachlans ending their run early, however, Wright believes that the brothers’ performance will help the rest of the team as they prepare for the spring in the near two-month long offseason.
“They have a great experience to bring back with them and to share with everyone else,” Wright said. “It was a good way to finish the fall.”