Engsted shines in Aggie Invitational for Cal men’s tennis

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With a six-member squad ready to put more experience under their belts, the Cal men’s tennis team traveled to UC Davis this past weekend for the 2013 Aggie Invitational, looking to establish its dominance in Northern California. Competing against 12 other collegiate teams, Cal kept itself busy with plenty of match play though, stringing along only a handful of noteworthy scorelines.

“There were some results we liked, some results we would’ve liked to have changed,” said assistant coach Tyler Browne.

Seeded second in the Aggie Singles flight, sophomore Mads Engsted emerged as the tournament’s finalist. Engsted lost to top-seed Robin Cambier of Oregon, 0-6, 2-6 in the final round.

But in his journey to the finals, the Dane produced impressive wins, given that this is his first tournament back since his first-round retirement in the season-opening Harvard Chowder Fest.

Engsted routed Portland’s Reid DeLaubenfels 6-2, 6-2, before posting back-to-back three-set victories. He then defeated Joey Swaysland of Oregon, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 and Santa Clara’s Ashot Khacharyan 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. To reach the final round, Engsted topped Cambier’s teammate, Robin Farin, 6-4, 7-5.

“This weekend, Mads figured something out about his game,” Browne said. “He was structuring his points very well. He was maintaining his focus and was understanding how to use his higher-percentage shots.”

None of the five other players reached as far as Engsted did.

Both junior Nikhil Jayashankar and sophomore Wyatt Houghton only made it to the round of 16. Jayashankar handily defeated Thomas Hunt of Saint Mary’s 6-3, 6-1 in the first round but proceeded to lose to Farin in a close three-setter, 6-0, 3-6, 6-4. Houghton had tougher luck with his draw — he fell to Cambier, 1-6, 3-6.

“Nikhil had his opportunities. If (Jayashankar) could go back, he would change a couple of things, knowing what shots worked and what shots didn’t,” Browne said.

The two other players appeared in the Big West singles flight. Third-seed Jordan Smith only reached the second round, losing to Ryan Andrada from Nevada, 4-6, 1-6. Junior Jack Sanford engaged in a highly competitive match with Saint Mary’s Wil Martin, taking the first set tiebreaker, 7-6(5) and losing the second set 4-6. But he fizzled out in the third, falling 1-6 to Martin.

Sanford’s strong efforts earned him a slot in the consolation draw, where the same competitiveness shone through. Sanford pulled out the win against UC Davis’ Adam Luba in two tiebreakers, 7-6(4), 7-6(0). The Cal junior was unable to clinch the win in the super-tiebreaker against UC Davis’s Bryce McKelvie — the end result was a scoreline of 6-3, 5-7, 1-0(7).

Cal’s doubles play this weekend reflects the Bears’ transitioning period of finding the correct doubles teams. The pairings of junior Chase Melton and Houghton, seeded third in the Aggie doubles flight, and Sanford-Jayashankar, seeded second in the Big West doubles flight, both had first-round exits. Melton-Houghton later withdrew due to injury in the consolation rounds.

“(Doubles) is definitely an area we could’ve done better in,” said Browne, noting the team’s struggle to adjust to the windy weather conditions.

Browne and the team did not seem too affected by this weekend’s mixed bag of results. After all, preseason has little to do with the team’s championships chances and standing in the spring.

“We had a good weekend,” said Browne. “They learned something, which is our goal this weekend, and I think we accomplished that.”

Jennifer Yu covers men’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected].