No. 19 Cal men’s tennis struggles with No. 22 Tulane, rebounds against Oregon

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It was an up-and-down weekend of matches for the No. 19 Cal men’s tennis team, but the Bears can walk away knowing that they ended on a high note.

Cal lost its opening match of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend in Berkeley, 4-3, to No. 22 Tulane. Fortunately, the Bears flipped the script and beat Oregon, 4-3, in the consolation match Monday.

After falling into an early 3-0 hole against the Green Wave, the Bears managed to claw back and tie the match at 3-3, but they were unable to complete the comeback.

Senior J.T. Nishimura fell to Tulane sophomore Ewan Moore 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 in the deciding match. In fact, both of the seniors at the top of Cal’s singles lineup took early one-set leads in their matches. Like Nishimura, senior Billy Griffith also fell apart in the final two sets of his match to put the Bears in a rough position.

Griffith’s match was bizarre, to say the least. He easily won the first set without dropping a game and then slumped his way to a 0-6, 6-1, 6-1 loss to senior Constantin Schmitz, all while the majority of the stadium had already assumed his victory after an impressive first set.

Cal head coach Peter Wright did not get the result he had hoped for, but understood that he needed to encourage improvements in the quick turnaround of play. His positive attitude, even after the gut-wrenching loss, translated over to his players.

“The energy in the middle of our lineup was outstanding today,” Wright said. “We are going to make mistakes over the course of the year, but nonetheless, this is an example of some very positive tennis.”

Cal earned all its points from freshmen Jack Molloy, Paul Barretto and Jacob Brumm in the first match’s singles play. Molloy edged freshman Hamish Stewart 6-2, 6-2 after he and freshman Ben Draper let a close doubles match go to a tiebreak.

“I finished out there on a really high note today,” Molloy said. “I was mentally really stable and that was good for my confidence and I will look to take the same energy from the singles today to the match tomorrow.”

The Bears headed into the consolation match against Oregon on Monday morning with a sense of pride on the line. Considering that Cal was the host team, it would have been pretty embarrassing to lose both matches on its home court.

The next morning, the Bears came out flat again in doubles and fell behind to the Ducks, who earned the 1-point advantage going into singles.

But Cal’s singles play was more inspired this time around — especially from its senior leaders. Griffith bounced back and avenged his loss from the day before by rallying against Oregon junior Thomas Laurent.

After Laurent cruised to 6-2 set lead, Griffith came back for the 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 victory. Nishimura also earned a point for his team by beating senior Simon Stevens in three sets, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.

It was once again the freshman Molloy who was a standout contributor, as he ultimately clinched the match for the Bears with a tight win over Oregon senior Akihiro Tanaka, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.

Although this now means that the Bears will not automatically qualify for the ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championships, these learning experiences and quick improvements will surely help the team in the future.

Charlie Griffen covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].

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