No. 3 junior Andre Goransson was focused in the rally and placing every ball on his opponent, USF’s Nils Skajaa’s weaker backhand. Skajaa surprised Goransson by giving a deep return on his backhand, but Goransson moved quickly and took the shot on his forehand. He ripped the ball across the court and Skajaa was unable to reach it. Goransson set up this point with immense tactical ability and clinched the overall team victory for the Bears over USF.
Cool, precise and ruthless. These are the words that can be used to describe Goransson and the Cal men’s tennis team as they blanked their opponents Hawaii and USF, 4-0, in a double header on Saturday. The Bears did not lose a single set throughout the series of matches and played high quality tennis in both doubles and singles.
“I think the way we competed today is the start of the whole process for the season,” said Cal head coach Peter Wright. “All 18 of the matches we played today, we looked very focused and that is testament to the mental strength of the players combined with their gameplay on the court.”
Cal first played the Rainbow Warriors and got off to a quick start by winning the doubles point. The junior pairing of Goransson and Filip Bergevi defeated Marcel Chan and Nikolai Storch as well as Cal’s court No. 3 pair of sophomores Billy Griffith and J.T. Nishimura who came out on top against Joakim Pinola and Igor Kalaric.
It was the same story in singles as the Bears came out all guns blazing with an aggressive style of play. The players, especially No. 30 junior Florian Lakat, combined well-angled groundstrokes with powerful winners that proved to be too much for Hawaii to handle. Bergevi posted the first win in singles over Chan, followed by senior Oskar Wikberg who beat Pinola, 6-3, 6-0. Lakat clinched the overall win with an exhilarating performance against Felix Albert. Lakat controlled the pace of the game with his ferocious groundstrokes and forced Albert to commit errors that helped Lakat in posting the win, 6-1, 6-2
“(Lakat) is one of the guys whose game is starting to come up in the spring,” Wright said. “His backhand was beautiful today and I’m also excited about how well his footwork was.”
There was a short break before the match against USF followed by teams warm-ups. As the Cal players were doing the training drills with the Dropkick Murphys’ “I’m Shipping up To Boston” playing in the background, the intention on their faces was clear. They were in the match to make quick work of USF as well. The Cal players had missed out on the chance to compete at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend last week because of bad weather, and they were looking to put all the disappointment and frustration away by performing well on the court.
Cal again started quickly as they blitzed the Dons in doubles. Wright shuffled up the courts a bit against USF and this experiment paid dividends in the course of the matchup.
Goransson and Bergevi, who had played on court No. 2 in the previous match, played on court No. 1 against USF’s Skajaa and Thomas Takemoto. The pair of Lakat and senior Mads Engsted exchanged places with Bergevi and Goransson and played on court No. 2 against Tynan Maguire and Christian Brockstedt. The pair won the match 6-1. Nishimura and Griffith again clinched the doubles point by defeating Vasco Valverde and Ryan Marker.
Engsted posted the first win as he prevailed over Jerod Mah, 6-0, 6-2. Engsted advanced well on the court and volleyed frequently to win points. Wikberg was the second player to post a win in singles as he defeated Woravin Kumthonkittikul, 6-0, 6-3. Wikberg moved well on the court and was able to win the match pretty quickly.
Goransson clinched the overall victory with a clinical performance against Skajaa. In the first two games, Goransson did a good job of understanding his opponent’s game style and strategized accordingly. He started hitting his strokes deep toward Skajaa’s backhand and utilized a variety of change of pace strokes. Skajaa was unable to cope with Goransson’s style and slumped to a 2-6, 0-6 defeat.
“I was more committed to my shots in the matchup,” Goransson said. “I played well and it was good to get the matches in as it was just what I needed. I focused well on his gameplay and it went pretty well.”
Both Goransson and Lakat, who had faced upset defeats against Tulsa, were key in the matchups against Hawaii and USF. The victories now improve Cal’s record to 2-1.
“In Tulsa we both had close losses. We competed hard but lacked match practice then,” Lakat said. “We trained well for these matches and played a lot of sets in practice and really had the right mindset. I’m glad it showed on the court today.”
Contact Devang Prasad at [email protected].