First impressions are overrated. Winning your first tournament, hitting a home run in your first at bat or scoring a touchdown on your first touch all seem to portend future greatness. But when you look back at the list of names of the players who accomplished these feats, there are just as many whom time forgot as ones who met their early promise. Dealing with pressure put on by such an accomplishment can be daunting. Cal men’s tennis freshman Bjorn Hoffmann played it smart by winning his second tournament instead.
Hoffmann entered the Aggie Invitational at UC Davis having played college singles only once before but still earned the tournament’s fourth seed in the singles draw. He certainly delivered on the confidence placed on him by dropping just two sets on his way to the singles title. This win continues a streak of Bear success at the tournament, as junior J.T Nishimura won the title the year before, and the now-graduated Mads Engsted won the year before that.
“(It feels) really really amazing,” Hoffmann said. “I played in a tournament last weekend, and I had a respectable loss so I came into this one with some rhythm. I really stepped it up in the last couple matches to take the whole thing. It’s a great feeling, and I love to keep up the Cal winning tradition at the tournament.”
The first and second seeds in the tournament both fell before the quarterfinals, opening up the draw for a dark horse win. Hoffman still had to fight his way through stiff competition to earn his shot at the title. Winning his second round match 6-0, 6-0 set up a rematch with Stanford senior Brandon Sutter, whom Hoffmann had played in his first collegiate match a few weeks prior. Hoffmann beat him fairly easily the first match but had to work a bit harder this time around, dropping the first set 3-6 before coming back to win the next two sets with close 6-4, 6-4 scores.
Hoffmann dispatched a Sacramento State player in straight sets in the semifinals before taking on University of Portland junior Matthieu Garcia in the finals. Hoffmann took the first set just about as closely as one can, 7-6(6). Garcia roared back to dominantly take the second set 6-1, putting Hoffmann back on the defensive headed into the decisive third set. But Hoffmann pulled off his high-wire act again, winning in a tiebreaker 7-6(3).
“To win your first title only your second time playing must be a really great feeling,” said Cal undergraduate assistant coach Oskar Wikberg. “He’s proving he can be a really good college player for the rest of his career, hopefully.”
Fellow freshman Nic Barretto made the final of the lower singles draw, losing to a UC Davis player who had the fortune of doing battle on his home court. Barretto and Hoffmann also teamed up as a doubles team for the first time, but that proved less fortunate than their solo endeavors, as they lost 8-2 in the first round.
Making a second impression instead of a first may save Hoffmann from being an unfortunate piece of trivia, but to make a lasting impression, he’ll still have to show this was no passing fluke.
Andrew Wild covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].