No. 6 Cal men’s tennis fights off challenges from UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara

Joshua Jordan/File

“Was that out?”

Senior Florian Lakat’s question echoed throughout court one as he asked the stands, after a questionable call from the umpire. And although the call stood, it seemed to fire him up as he went on to swiftly defeat his opponent.

This was just one of the many tension-ridden moments in Cal men’s tennis team’s Sunday doubleheader. While Lakat seemed to have ramped up the emotions and rode them to a win, many other players on the No. 6 Cal men’s tennis team faced adamant UC Santa Barbara team that seemed steadfast in a mission to defeat the Bears. But in the end, Cal came away with wins against both the Gauchos and the first opponent of the day, UC Davis.

“It was a really tough day for us,” said Cal head coach Peter Wright. “We felt UC Davis played strong today. We had to come out strong in the singles, and I think we did that. We came out solid against Santa Barbara in the doubles, and I think they’re just a really good team and have to credit their coaches and their players — they fought hard all day.”

The Bears had an aggressive schedule, with their first match against the Aggies at 10 a.m. and second match versus the Gauchos at 2 p.m. The timing of Cal’s matches, combined with senior Filip Bergevi missing from the roster because of injury, meant it would require extra effort for the Bears to defeat their two opponents, who usually wouldn’t represent much of a threat.

In Cal’s first match versus Davis, the Bears lost the doubles point in a rare sight, although it is only fair to mention that Cal was missing No. 63 Bergevi, who usually forms the No. 2 doubles team in the nation with Lakat. The team seemed to turn it around in singles, in which it won the four singles matches in straight sets, with Lakat clinching the win for the Bears, 4-1.

Upon finishing with the Aggies, Cal only had a short time to recover and mentally recuperate before getting back out on the court for its second match — one that proved itself to be much closer and much more trying.

The Bears got off to a strong start as the newly formed pair of Lakat and freshman Nic Barretto gave celebratory yells and pumped their fists after clinching the doubles point for Cal.

In singles, No. 26 senior Andre Goransson cruised past his opponent, 6-2, 6-0, while Lakat battled through disputable calls on court one. His opponent, sophomore Nicolas Moreno de Alboran, could be heard muttering “vamos” to himself while Lakat continuously chanted, “Go Bears.” But Lakat prevailed, 6-4, 6-1, ending the match with another round of fist pumps and yells, putting the Bears up 3-0.

The Gauchos were able to tie the teams’ total records up at 3-3 after two singles victories on courts four, five and six. All eyes then turned to court three to watch Cal junior Billy Griffith battle it out with fellow junior Simon Freund with the overall match on the line. Both teams were lined up on the neighboring courts as Lakat led “California” cheers and UCSB countered with its own. Griffith eventually ended up on top, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, as his teammates rushed the courts, jumping up and down and cheering.

“I thought I did a good job of fighting,” Griffith said. “I think that is probably the best thing I did. I didn’t play my best, but I think I did a really good job of competing and just trying to fight for every point.”

Staying in the fight despite the rampant emotions racing through his head, Griffith displayed his grit and perseverance, both of which will be essential for Cal if it hopes to beat No. 9 Michigan on Tuesday night.

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