At the start of singles play last Saturday, the No. 16 Cal men’s tennis team thought it had the dual match win in the bag.
The Bears had just clinched the doubles point after defeating Pepperdine on the first two courts at the Hellman Tennis Complex. Cal later entered the singles round conquering three of the first six sets.
But then No. 12 Pepperdine proved why it is one of the top-ranked teams in the nation.
During the second half of the match, the Waves fought back to push the score to 3-3. With the fate of the match down to the result on the second court, senior co-captain Christoffer Konigsfeldt dropped a close three-set match to hand the win over to Pepperdine, 4-3.
“We let (the match) slip away in a couple of spots,” said Cal coach Peter Wright. “But when it comes down to our team captain playing for us at three-all in the third set, that’s all we can ask for. Pepperdine just fought back.”
On the top court in doubles, Cal’s doubles duo of Konigsfeldt and Campbell Johnson battled against Pepperdine’s Finn Tearney and Francis Alcantara. On match point, Konigsfeldt smashed the ball toward the right side of the court where Alcantara could not reach, and the Bears took the 1-0 advantage.
In singles, Pepperdine’s David Sofaer quickly knocked off Cal’s Nikhil Jayashankar in two sets to tie the match at 1-1. But junior Ben McLachlan, along with three other Bears, took first-set leads to start off the round. McLachlan notched the Bears their second point when the Waves’ No. 11 Sebastian Fanselow returned McLachlan’s forehand too far outside the baseline, 6-2, 6-3.
On the third court, junior Johnson swept Pepperdine’s Alcantara in the first set, 6-0. He was leading the second set, 4-1, when Alcantara won five straight games to take the second set. During the third set, Johnson attacked Alcantara’s weaker forehand until he garnered the three-set victory.
“He started to play with more confidence, and it just got away from me,” Johnson said. “In the third set, it was all about just calming down and getting back to my strategy.”
With the match tied at 3-3, the result on court two between Konigsfeldt and Tearney was the decider. After Konigsfeldt clinched the first set, the momentum shifted in the beginning of the second set when Tearney won a game on Konigsfeldt’s serve.
Konigsfeldt attempted to consistently volley the ball, but Tearney’s aggressive shots forced him to lob the ball until Tearney clinched the fourth point, 6-3, 3-6, 3-6.
“I was feeling pretty comfortable, but he started getting frustrated, and I think that gave him a spark,” Konigsfeldt said. “He attacked my backhand a lot in the third set, and I had to throw up a lot of lobs.”
Although the Bears eventually lost a close match after having an early advantage, Wright still believes that his team ended the match in a good position with Konigsfeldt at the helm.
“At the end, that’s the guy we want out there,” Wright said. “He’s a senior, he’s experienced, he’s won big matches for us.”
“It’s just that today was not his day.”
Janice Chua covers men’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected].