Senior Florian Lakat’s frustrated cries were heard from the stand at the Hellman Tennis Complex. Opposite on court six, there were claps and a smile from junior J.T. Nishimura after closing out a win.
From this scene, there seems to be something missing — consistency. While the No. 11 Cal men’s tennis team was able to defeat No. 25 Illinois, 4-3, it still seemed to struggle with lack of consistency amongst performances throughout the team.
On Saturday, the Bears took down a ranked team in a pretty significant win, getting back on their feet just in time for the second half of the season. And despite some play in singles that could have fared better, Cal overall performed fairly well.
Winning the doubles point was a big key to the Bears’ success in this match. The No. 4 ranked pair of Lakat and senior Filip Bergevi came out strong to defeat the Illini’s unranked Aleks Vukic and Aron Hiltzik, 6-2, in an expectedly easy match. Cal’s other ranked doubles pair of No. 65 senior Andre Goransson and junior Billy Griffith also defeated their unranked opponents Alex Jesse and Aleks Kovacevic, 6-4.
Doubles is an important piece to winning a match, and Cal has faltered the past couple of weeks because of it. But in the its match against Illinois, it finally performed at a level that is expected out of a team with a top-five ranked doubles team in the nation and another top-70 ranked team.
Singles was not as smooth riding for Cal, but they were able to come out on top. Nishimura was the first to win in two easy sets against Vuk Budic 6-2, 6-0. Freshman Bjorn Hoffmann lost his first set in a tie-breaker and allowed his opponent to take control of the match for the second, losing 7-6(3), 6-1. This was followed with a loss by No. 13 Lakat who was disappointed by No. 20 Vukic, 6-4, 6-4.
At this point, whether the Bears would come out on top seemed uncertain. Tied at 2 apiece, No. 71 Griffith and No. 48 Goransson were in their third sets, while Bergevi had won his first and was down in the second.
But Griffith was able to finish off his opponent, coming back from a first set deficit to defeat Aleks Vukacevic, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. Cal was now up 3-2, and with only one more win needed, Bergevi made a second set comeback to clinch the match in a tiebreaker over Julian Childers, 7-5, 7-6(6).
This was definitely a much-needed win for the Bears, especially for their confidence, as they seem to be slowly improving every match. Once a team gets in a losing mindset, it’s difficult for it to drag itself out of the slump. But Cal has been able to rebound and start the winning cycle again.
Taylor Choe covers men’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected]