With three players obtaining entry into pro tournaments only a few weeks into the season, Cal men’s tennis seems unstoppable. The team hopes to continue its streak this weekend at the annual Aggie Invitational at the Marya Welch Tennis Center in Davis. The tournament is set to contain two singles flights, each with a consolation bracket, as well as a pair of doubles flights, also with a consolation bracket.
When they faced the Aggies last spring, the Bears won handily, winning the first three singles matches and all the doubles matches. Two of Cal’s key players in that match, Hasier Pastor and Gregory Bayane, have since graduated, while all UC Davis’ players from last year’s matchup are on the current roster, which surprisingly contains no freshman competitors. The loss of Pastor and Bayane for the Bears should not make that much of an impact on the outcome, considering the Bears’ recent success.
This past spring, UC Davis had a fruitful season, falling to only six of the 21 teams it played, including Cal, Stanford, Hawaii Pacific, UCSB, San Francisco and UC Irvine. In the UC Davis Aggie Invitational, the Aggies will be hosting three of these six teams again — and vying for redemption.
Athletes from Sacramento State, St. Mary’s, Nevada, Pacific and Fresno State will also be joining the competition, as in 2014. Of these teams, Cal will face its biggest challenge against Stanford, which took two of its three matchups in the spring season. So far this fall, the Bears have been transcending other teams in tournament play, even Stanford, which they met at the Battle of the Bay and the Porsche Napa Valley Classic.
Like last weekend, Cal will be sending five players: senior Mads Engsted, sophomore J.T. Nishimura, senior Jordan Smith and freshmen Ryan Shen and Gunther Matta. Matta and Shen will both be competing in the first official tournament of their college careers.
“This is really an individual tournament, so the goal for me is that we get matches for each one of our guys,” said Cal head coach Peter Wright. “It is not really a reflection on the strength or weakness of our team, but more about the development of our individual players.”
Some notable players who will not be playing in Davis include juniors Andre Goransson, Florian Lakat and Filip Bergevi, who instead will be attending the opening rounds of the ITA Men’s All-American Tournament, which starts this weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Senior Oskar Wikberg will also not be attending, as he continues to nurse his injury to get ready for the bigger matches of the fall season.
Another Bear who will not be competing in Davis is sophomore Billy Griffith. After his triumph over Lakat to win the Porsche Napa Valley Classic last weekend, Griffith was rewarded with a place in a USTA pro-circuit tournament, the specifics of which have yet to be determined.
Though they will be missing some star players, the Bears hope to give a glimpse of what is to come in the season ahead.
“Mads Engsted is the defending champion, and we have done well in this tournament in the past, so I expect us to play well there, even without our top players,” Wright said.
Going into this weekend, the Bears have a streak to defend — perhaps they will even send another player pro.
Lucy Schaefer covers men’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected]