While the core of the Cal men’s tennis team continues to play at the Saint Francis Health System All-American Championships, the players further down the roster are traveling to the Gaucho Classic at UC Santa Barbara to try and prove the Bears are not a four-man operation.
The four top singles players from last year’s Final Four run have done as expected so far in Tulsa at the All-Americans, and the rest of the Bears will look to defend their title in Santa Barbara coming off an impressive performance in the Aggie Invitational. A shaky beginning to the season has given way to stronger performances this past week, and the Bears have to hope they can keep the ball rolling.
“It’s our goal to keep playing the way we are,” said Cal associate head coach Tyler Browne. “We’re hoping for similar results (to last weekend). We want to keep playing the right way, we’re not as concerned about results but obviously those are always good to have as well. We’ll keep building up to regionals. It’s a little strange (to be split up), but at the same time we all have the big picture in mind and we’re all working together to build our team.”
Seniors Florian Lakat and Andre Goransson had already earned berths for the main singles draw of the All-Americans as the 13th- and 17th-ranked singles players, respectively, so in the qualifying rounds this weekend, senior Filip Bergevi and junior Billy Griffith had to earn the right to join them. Bergevi, ranked 77th, took on Duke freshman Robert Levine. Bergevi must have been a bit surprised to see a freshman taking a place in the All-American tournament, but Levine was a blue-chip prospect and showed he deserved the spot by forcing a game-deciding tiebreaker but falling just short in a 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(5) win for Bergevi.
Griffith had a much easier time advancing into the main draw, defeating University of San Diego’s 107th-ranked Filip Vittek 6-0, 6-3. Cal will be the only school with four players in the single draw — an impressive accomplishment.
Goransson and Griffith are working out the kinks as they play their first few matches as a doubles team, and the All-Americans proved to be too difficult of a place to do tinkering. Bergevi and Lakat are the second-ranked doubles team in the nation, so they did not have to play in qualifying rounds, but Goransson and Griffith will not be able to meet them in the main doubles draw. Playing Ohio State’s Hugo Di Fao — ranked 33rd in singles — and Martin Joyce proved to be too much for the Bears’ inexperienced duo, and they fell 6-3, 6-4.
“It’s part of the fun of the fall, seeing guys gel together (into doubles team),” Browne said. “A big component is team chemistry, so seeing which guys gel is really what we’re looking for.”
Closer to home, freshman Bjorn Hoffmann, coming off of a singles title at the Aggie Invitational, will be traveling to Santa Barbara with freshman Nic Barretto, and sophomores Ryan Shen and Gunther Matta. The Gaucho singles title has been seized in the past by Griffith and Goransson, and the four traveling to the tournament will be hoping to keep the Bear streak of dominance going.
Andrew Wild covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].