The Cal men’s tennis team came to New York for the National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships hoping for big results to end its spring season. But now, like so many that come to the Big Apple with big dreams, it’ll be leaving empty handed and a little humbled.
Expectations were high in the fall season after making the Final Four in the NCAA tournament last year and bringing back all of their top four players. The fall seemed to be heading toward a grand finale in New York after the doubles duo of seniors Filip Bergevi and Florian Lakat seized the title at the All-American Championship and the No. 1 seed at the NIIC.
With a first-round bye, the pair only needed four wins to nab a championship and cement its spot as the best team in the nation. But the first step is always the hardest — Lakat and Bergevi were knocked out in the first round by Valparaiso’s seniors Jeffrey Schorsch and Charlie Emhardt in a 7-5, 4-6, 1-0 (9) match. Schorsch and Emhardt are the first team to ever represent Valparaiso at the tournament and ended up making the finals before falling to the draw’s second seed.
“It was a little bit surprising, but at the same time you have to give credit to Valparaiso’s team,” said Cal associate head coach Tyler Browne. “They came out and played really good doubles. Our guys were a little bit surprised the first set. They made their adjustments after that, but the tiebreaker is anybody’s game.”
Lakat and Bergevi were ranked second in the nation coming into the fall season, and getting the No. 1 seed meant a good showing would basically guarantee the No. 1 ranking going into the spring. After the loss, there will be a lot more uncertainty when the rankings come out in January. Lakat and Bergevi also lost in the semifinals of the consolation draw to the team ranked first in the nation, further clouding the rankings picture.
“I don’t think our guys care (about the rankings),” Browne said. “Looking at their results this fall, regardless of this tournament … these guys know they’re one of the best teams in the country.”
Senior Andre Goransson looked poised to impress in the singles draw after winning the Northwest Regionals singles title, but he matched the doubles team’s results by losing 6-1, 6-4 in the first round to Arkansas senior Mike Redlicki. Goransson certainly had higher expectations for himself, but Redlicki went on to win the tournament, making it feel like less of a disappointing performance on Goransson’s part and more of an unfortunate placement in the draw.
“I know (Goransson) wishes he could have had that match back and played a little differently,” Browne said. “(Redlicki winning the title) doesn’t soften the blow, but it’s OK to lose to the champion of the whole tournament.”
Lakat made the singles draw and won his opening match 6-3, 6-3 before falling in the second round to the fourth seed in the tournament, Mississippi State sophomore Nuno Borges.
This could be a deflating loss and end to the fall season or a motivating factor that shows there is work yet to be done. The men’s tennis team now has almost three months to decide which one it will be.
Andrew Wild covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected]