Cal men’s tennis seizes singles title in impressive showing at Northwest Regionals

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Zach Ryan/File

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It would be overly dramatic to say the Cal men’s tennis team went into the USTA/ITA Northwest Regional Championships needing big results to save its fall season. The freshmen on the team showed a lot of promise in singles, and seniors Filip Bergevi and Florian Lakat won the All-American Championships doubles title.

But beyond that, things were shaky. The singles results for the four players returning from last year’s Final Four run were underwhelming, and the doubles team beyond Bergevi and Lakat had yet to impress.

Hosting the regional championships offered the perfect opportunity to put all doubts to bed and prove Cal’s stock as contenders. The Bears took that opportunity, and put any uncertainty surrounding the team to bed by winning the singles title and producing good doubles play.

Lakat, ranked No. 13 in singles, made the quarterfinals of the All-American championships, the best result of any Bears player. He did not play regionals, having already earned a berth in the Indoor Championships. So it was left to the remaining top three players to show the Bears championship aspirations were more than wishful thinking. After all three made the semifinals, it’s hard to imagine how they could have proved it more forcefully.

Bergevi defeated junior Billy Griffith in a comeback 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-4 match, and senior Andre Goransson made quick work of Portland junior Michail Pervolarakis in a 6-3, 6-2 match to set up a Bear-on-Bear final.

“It’s really hard to play against a teammate, but it’s a skillset the guys need to know,” said Cal head coach Peter Wright. “I think we try to put everything else aside, and just play the best tennis you can. It’s an emotional roller-coaster for many guys.”

Goransson and Bergevi are the No. 17 and No. 77 ranked players respectively, and the difference in the caliber of their play showed during the match. Goransson was happy to play a more defensive style for the most part, knowing that he could reach most of Bergevi’s hard hit balls with his long wingspan and quick feet and that Bergevi would eventually commit an unforced error if Goransson could keep the ball in play.

It was a frustrating style for Bergevi to come up against, and he demonstrated that with occasional shouting and something toeing the line between dropping and throwing his racquet. But for the most part he was able to control his emotions and used them to his advantage in the second set after losing the first, 6-4. He played a more consistent style to turn a 3-4 deficit into a 6-5 lead, but after getting two break points to seal the set, he could not take advantage.

Goransson forced a tiebreaker, prompting a fist pump and yelp of relief, Goransson’s only sign of emotion during an otherwise stoic match. A 7-3 tiebreak gave Goransson the title and a berth in the Indoor Championships.

“We both know what to expect from one another,” Goransson said. “There’s so many emotions playing someone who’s basically your best friend. It’s so tough to close out the match against a guy like that.”

Because Bergevi and Lakat already earned berths to the Indoor Championships, they did not play in the doubles tournament. Pressure then fell to Goransson and Griffith to prove they were a legitimate number two doubles team after their mixed results in a few matches last spring and this fall.

The duo showed an ability to hold up under the pressure, making a run to the semifinals before losing in a close match against the second seeded pair from Oregon. Wright seemed impressed by their play and ready to commit to them as a team going forward.

“Each time out this year they’ve gotten better,” Wright said. “Their energy and their focus is getting better every time. There’s no question in my mind they’re a force to be reckoned with, and I think they’re really taking it on themselves to be one of the best teams in the nation.”

Andrew Wild covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].

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