Still a ways to go for Cal men’s tennis team

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Despite ending last season as one of the elite men’s tennis programs in the country, Cal learned this week just how far it still has to go.

The Cal men’s tennis team concluded its run at the Saint Francis Health System ITA Men’s All-American Championships with a series of disappointing losses. Up against stifling competition, none of Cal’s representatives at the championships were able to advance past the round of 32 in the main draws.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the championships were held, the Bears competed against the best players from the best schools. Some of the participants included Julian Lenz, currently ranked No. 1 in ITA men’s singles, and two-time ITA All-American singles champion Mitchell Frank. The Men’s All-American Championships are one of the top-three most competitive events on the collegiate tennis circuit, akin to a Grand Slam in the pro tour, and it’s no surprise Cal was overwhelmed.

With the All-American Championships drawing in the premier collegiate men’s tennis athletes across the country, it doesn’t surprise many that Cal seemed to struggle. But head coach Peter Wright is a proponent of looking beyond the results.

“It’s early in the season for us, so some of these results aren’t as important as how the guys are playing,” Wright said. “The results don’t accurately reflect the quality of the tennis played.”

Arguably the lone bright spot of Cal’s performance in the tournament was sophomore Andre Goransson’s run to earn a spot in the main draw. Goransson began the week as a part of the qualifying singles, vying against tens of other players to advance to the main draw. He handily beat three consecutive opponents in straight sets to move forward. Ultimately, however, he suffered a heartbreaking three-set loss in his opening game in the main draw’s round of 64 to Nicolas Alvarez from Duke.

Senior Gregory Bayane and redshirt senior Chase Melton, ranked No. 7 nationally and seeded fourth in doubles entering the competition, were thought to have a fighting chance at advancing forward. After advancing past the round of 64 with a bye, they lost in a shocking upset to a 37th-ranked Jeremy Efferding and Jordan Szabo from Texas A&M in three sets. The duo lost again in the quarterfinals of the consolation bracket to a pair from N.C. State — ranked 9th nationally — in yet another upset.

The pair of sophomore Filip Bergevi and junior transfer Oskar Wikberg, both Swedes, bowed out in their first match of the qualifying doubles. They lost to the 41st-ranked tandem of Diego Acosta and Ricky Medinilla from Purdue. Wikberg was also a competitor in the qualifying singles, getting off to a good start by winning his first match but suffering defeat in his second match.

“For some of our guys, it’s their first tournament of the year,” Wright said. “It exposes some of the areas we need to work on as individuals and as a team. Overall, it helps us formulate our road map for how we develop this team for the spring season.”

Kapil Kashyap covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected]