In search for three-peat, Cal men’s tennis heads to Palo Alto

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A three-peat is a rare and truly special occurrence in the sporting world, and having won for the past two years at regionals, the Cal men’s tennis team will be playing for the opportunity to achieve it.

This weekend, the Bears will be heading down to Palo Alto, California, to compete against the Northwest region’s finest in the USTA/ITA Northwest Regional Championships. Two players who graduated last year, Ben McLachlan and Campbell Johnson, won the tournament the past two years. Last year, Andre Goransson advanced to the semifinals, where he lost to Pacific’s Sem Verbeek, who then lost to eventual champion Johnson, and Filip Bergevi bowed out in the quarterfinals.

“Historically, we’ve done very well at regionals,” said associate head coach Tyler Browne. “That’s kind of the focus of the fall: to peak at this point.”

Despite their streak of dominance at these regionals, the Bears will have to power through a challenging slate of opponents if they hope to succeed again. Their field of competition includes Pac-12 competitors Washington and Oregon in addition to local schools such as UC Davis, Pacific, University of San Francisco, Gonzaga and Sac State. Stanford, who is hosting the competition this year, finished second in the Northwest region — behind Cal — at the conclusion of last season and will likely be the Bears’ stiffest competition.

One of the focal points of the fall season has been the experimentation with doubles’ pairings, an area where Cal has faltered in recent tournaments. This weekend’s doubles matches will showcase new sets of pairings.

“We’re looking just to see what the chemistry’s like with all of the guys,” Browne said. “We don’t want to get married to one team and have them concrete for the season — so we want to keep mixing things up and make sure that the focus is as a doubles player and not just as a doubles team.”

Senior Gregory Bayane and redshirt senior Chase Melton, ranked as the No. 7 duo in the nation by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, will be partnered up for the weekend. Some pairings that have not yet been seen in the fall include the pair of the two freshmen — Billy Griffith and J.T. Nishimura — as well as Mads Engsted and Bergevi, who played well together last spring. The other doubles pairings include that of Goransson and junior transfer Oskar Wikberg and that of Hasier Pastor and Wyatt Houghton.

The regionals will serve as an indicator of how far the team has progressed in the fall season. The areas of emphasis in practice thus far have been on the finer nuances, from in-between-point routines to taking advantage of the short ball. High-level competition tournaments such as these provide players the opportunity to test out and refine these areas.

“We’re trying not to put too much emphasis on the results but more on how to get there,” Browne said. “So each guy has a different plan that’s been set, some goals that they’ve made prior to this event. Each guy has their plan, and we’ll see if they can execute it.”

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