With two months of preseason experience under its belt, the Cal men’s tennis team is readying itself for the USTA/ITA Northwest Regional Championships, which marks the peak of the fall season. Held at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif., from Friday to Tuesday, the tournament will reward its winners with automatic bids to November’s USTA/ITA Indoor National Championships in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., the crown jewel of any player’s fall season.
“It’s a tough tournament to win,” said head coach Peter Wright. “But we’re looking forward to the challenges.”
The Regional Championships tournament invites all Division I schools from the Northern California to the Washington area. Other entrants in the field include Pac-12 schools, Stanford, Washington and Oregon, all of whom Wright deems as stiff competition.
Ten of the Bears are scheduled to play in the 128-player draw. Reigning singles and doubles champion senior Ben McLachlan will not defend his titles this year due to injury.
“His focus is clearly on the spring, and our job is to help him get healthy and perform at the highest he can be in order for him to benefit the team in the spring,” Wright said.
Senior Campbell Johnson, who earned the No. 2 seed in the draw, is expected to lead the pack. Despite a few injury scares peppered here and there, Johnson has strung a series of successful results, including a second-round appearance at the national All-American Championships and a finalist title at last week’s Battle in the Bay tournament.
Other seeded Cal players include junior Gregory Bayane, sophomore Mads Engsted and freshmen Filip Bergevi and Andre Goransson. These seed placements are based on the players’ performances in the fall season. Engsted was the finalist at the UC Davis’ Aggie Invitational, Goransson topped Johnson for the Battle in the Bay title and Bergevi defeated former UCLA star Dennis Novikov at a Pro Circuit Challenger tournament. Juniors Nikhil Jayashankar, Jack Sanford and Chase Melton as well as sophomores Wyatt Houghton and Jordan Smith round out the Cal lineup.
“I’m expecting to do as good as I can,” Bergevi said. “I have no expectations as a freshman. But I think I can do pretty good this weekend.”
Doubles will continue its experimental stage. The pairings slated to compete at Regionals, such as Bergevi-Johnson and Engsted-Houghton, have been unlike the ones used in previous tournaments.
“We have two new players on the team, Filip and Andre, and we’re trying to find the right positions for them,” Wright said. “Doubles is a lot about chemistry.”
To increase its match play experience, Cal hosted an exhibition Tuesday against the Danish National Team, which included recent Cal graduate Christoffer Konigsfeldt. Played in a traditional college dual-match format, the scrimmage ended in a 5-2 win by Cal.
“It’s always fun to play other players — the ones we don’t usually practice with,” Bergevi said. “It’s good to have match play during the weekdays, especially before a tournament like this.”
Aside from the National Indoor Championships in November, Cal will shift its focus away from tournaments for the winter season. In preparation for the spring season, where the NCAA Championships are on the line, the team will undergo physical training to build the players’ speed and strength.
“Our goals mostly lie in the spring, so all of this (fall season) leads towards a better opportunity to play at the NCAAs in May,” Wright said. “Individually, I’m pleased with where we’re headed, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
Jennifer Yu covers men’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected].