Throughout this week, the Cal men’s tennis team is split between different time zones, doing double duty at tournaments in Oklahoma and in nearby Davis. Both tournaments are geared towards making strides for the spring season.
Seniors Ben McLachlan and Campbell Johnson earned direct entries to the main draw of the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, Okla, while six Bears, Chase Melton, Wyatt Houghton, Jack Sanford, Nikhil Jayashankar, Mads Engsted, and Jordan Smith, will compete at the UC Davis Aggie Invitational this weekend.
In Oklahoma, McLachlan and Johnson overcame their rustiness by posting strong efforts in the competitive 64-player draw.
Making his third appearance in the ITA All-American tournament, McLachlan lost in the first round, 4-6, 6-7(4), to a qualifier, North Carolina’s Ronnie Schneider.The match was hotly contested with McLachlan losing the lead within the second-set tiebreak. Starting in the second set, McLachlan appeared to have problems with his ankle, an injury that he has been recovering from since the summer.
“Ben had a tough tournament. This is his first trip since his injury,” said head coach Peter Wright. “But he’s been doing a lot better (with his ankle) than he was a month ago.”
Johnson fared better than his teammate. In the first round, he defeated Drew Lied of Michigan State 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, in a roller coaster three-set match. Johnson later lost to Vanderbilt’s Gonzales Austin, 3-6, 1-6, in the second round. Because of the windy weather, it was a quick loss for Johnson.
“It was nice to get through (the first round) and just to pull that off,” Johnson said. “(Austin) just handled the conditions better.”
Meanwhile back at Cal, the team has been preparing for the upcoming weekend’s Aggie Invitational, held at UC Davis. In its second year of participation, the team will send six players to the tournament, as freshmen Andre Goransso and Filip Bergevi, and junior Gregory Bayane will sit out.
The six players will appear in the singles draw, and Cal also has two doubles teams in the mix. The pairs of Melton/Houghton and Sanford/Jayashankar will play as part of the pre-season’s experimental nature.
Though Melton and Houghton have only played one match together and the lineups will not be finalized until January, their win at the Harvard Chowder Fest seemed to make them a promising pairing.
The Aggie Invitational is another installment of the team’s six event pre-season. This weekend’s downsized lineup at this tournament reflects the coaches’ philosophy on pre-season skill-building.
“As coaches, we’re not too concerned with results. More importantly for us, it’s about how they’re progressing as players,” assistant coach Tyler Browne said. “(The invitational is) a chance for our guys to learn the new skills they’ve been learning in practice and using them in a tournament.”
As Cal continues participating in its assortment of tournaments, its ultimate goal this fall is to peak at the USTA/ITA Northwest Regional Championships.
“The regionals are what we’re gearing up to. We’ve done well there in the past,” Browne said. “We’ve won the team award for the past few years, so that’s something the guys like to hold onto.”
Jennifer Yu covers men’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected].