Cal men’s tennis is in a league of its own. With dominating performances at the ITA Men’s All-American Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and a singles title at the UCSB Gaucho Classic over the past week, the Bears continue to prove that they belong in the conversation as one of the nation’s top-flight tennis programs.
At the All-American Championships that took place from Oct. 5 to Sunday, junior Andre Goransson fell in the main draw singles semifinals to Tulane’s Dominik Koepfer, 6-4, 6-4. The loss was the culmination of a valiant effort from the Bear through the tournament, as Goransson knocked off Illinois’ Aron Hiltzik, 6-2, 6-1, in the round of 16 and San Diego’s Uros Petronijevic, 6-4, 6-3, in the quarterfinals. By making it to the singles quarterfinal round, Goransson also earned an automatic berth into the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships from Nov. 12-15 in Flushing Meadows, New York.
“Andre Goransson had a pretty great return to form,” said Cal men’s tennis associate head coach Tyler Browne. “He did something that, in our program, we haven’t done in about 15 years, which is make it to the semifinals of the main draw singles (of the All-American tournament). He played some very committed tennis through the whole tournament, (and) he really stuck to his gameplan. That’s something that has allowed him to be more collected on the court.”
Goransson’s performance at the All-American tournament is also indicative of a continual pattern of growth and maturation that his coaches have noticed from him as he’s transitioned into his junior season.
“Coming into his junior year, he’s definitely turned a couple corners,” Browne said. “He understands his game, so he knows what he does well, and he’s using what he has. I think he’s not hitting shots that he knows aren’t part of his arsenal. He’s playing the game.”
Junior Florian Lakat held his own against the stiff competition of the ITA All-American tournament. He competed alongside Goransson in the back draw doubles, and the pair lost in the quarterfinals. In the main draw singles, Lakat persevered to the round of 16, where he fell to Virginia’s Thai-Son Kwiatkowski, 6-3, 6-3.
“(Lakat) committed to his … forehands, committed to his serves, and that really helped him in his second-round match versus Georgia Tech — and even in his match that he lost against Virginia, he stuck to his process,” Browne said. “He stuck to what he wanted to do. The more he commits to his game style, the better he’s going to get, and the more he’s going to improve.”
At the UCSB Gaucho Classic from Friday to Sunday, sophomore Billy Griffith captured the singles title with his victory over Oregon’s Daan Maasland, 6-2, 6-3. The victory was Griffith’s second title of the season, as he also took the singles crown at the Porsche Napa Valley Classic. It was also the second consecutive year that Cal won the Gaucho Classic, as senior Mads Engsted took the singles title last season.
With the dominating performances this past weekend against many of the toughest challengers in collegiate tennis, the Bears certainly held their own. The team’s inspired play only continues to show that all the pieces have finally come together, as the team’s mixture of talented veteran leadership and up-and-coming youth has propelled the Bears to unforeseen heights.
“The biggest takeaway is knowing that we belong,” Browne said. “We have two, if not three, of the best players in the country. It’s going to be fun for us to compete in the spring knowing that we’ve got these guys on the team and they can compete with anybody. There’s no team out there that we’re afraid of.”
Shiktij Dave covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].