No. 4 Cal men’s tennis shakes off Pepperdine’s resilience

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Alice Langford/File

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With half of the afternoon’s singles matches going into three sets, and the two doubles matches that clinched going into seven games, the No. 4 Cal men’s tennis team (3-0) had to fight for its win against unranked Pepperdine (2-3).

In doubles the No. 3 senior pair of Florian Lakat and Filip Bergevi finished first, closely edging out the Waves duo of senior Stefan Menichella and sophomore Jack Van Slyke, 7-5. Menichella and Van Slyke must have brought their A-games, giving Lakat and Bergevi a run for their money.

The Bears tandem of freshman Bjorn Hoffmann and junior JT Nishimura followed shortly after, defeating the pair of juniors Lautaro Pane and  Pedro Iamachkine in another tight match, 7-6. The duo of junior Billy Griffith and senior Andre Goransson abandoned their match while it was all tied up at six games apiece.

Pepperdine’s strength was somewhat unexpected, especially considering that only one singles player is ranked. For any doubles pair to force Lakat and Bergevi into seven games is quite an accomplishment. The closeness of the matches shows the resilience that the Waves display, no matter who the opponent is.

In singles, No. 12 Lakat finished first with an easy 6-4, 6-1 win over No. 102 senior Guilherme Hadlich, not allowing Hadlich any chance of cracking his composure. Cal was up 2-0 until Lakat’s win was followed by two losses. Previously ranked Hoffmann lost to Van Slyke, 6-4, 6-4, falling just short in each set. Hoffmann’s fellow freshman Connor Heap also lost in a close three-set match, unable to hold on after winning the first set, 6-1.

As freshmen already earning spots on the court, Hoffmann and Heap are clearly strong players with bright futures. Both of their matches could have gone in Pepperdine or Cal’s favor, and learning how to finish off a match is an important part of tennis. For the Bears’ sake, hopefully this will be something that will come as the two gain more experience.

Pushing Cal to victory were two players who have plenty of experience — No. 27 Goransson and No. 40 Griffith. Goransson was able to pull out a three-set win over Iamachkine, winning 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, and setting a good example in maintaining resilience and calm composure from start to finish. Clinching the match for the Bears was Griffith, who defeated Pane 6-4, 7-6, in a long two-set match that went into a tie-breaker game. Barely edging out his opponent in both sets are what made the difference for Griffith.

Cal came away with the win, which is a positive, but at the same time, the Bears will face much more difficult opponents in the rest of the season. It is understandable that the younger members of the team will have to work on things that come with maturity, because college matches are at a whole new level. But issues with finishing off matches is definitely something that could haunt Cal in the future and could truly be the difference between being capable of contending for the NCAA title or falling in the early rounds.

Taylor Choe covers men’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected]