After an early exit from the Battle in the Bay tournament, its second short tournament performance in as many weeks, the Cal men’s tennis team seems content in waiting to truly start battling until the dual match season begins. Sending only one of their top four players, an early round injury meant the Bears did not come particularly close to defending their titles in the singles and doubles draw from the previous year’s tournament.
Cal head coach Peter Wright has spoken about focusing on the dual match spring season as opposed to early season tournaments. But the more tournaments Cal players fail to make an impact in, the further expectations may start to dwindle.
Senior Andre Goransson hoisted the singles and doubles titles from the 2015 Battle in the Bay but was not sent again this year. He instead played in the Tiburon Challenger, a pro-circuit tournament, along with senior teammate Filip Bergevi.
The only player from last year’s Battle in the Bay to be sent again by Cal was Florian Lakat, who earned the doubles title playing with Goransson. Lakat was seeded as the No. 1 player in the singles draw, earning a first round bye. He won a come-from-behind three-set match in the second round to avoid an embarrassing upset and had little trouble beating USF sophomore Ryan Marker in the third. But before Lakat could go face USC senior Rob Bellamy, he was pulled for an injury.
“In his first singles match, he had been bothered by his knee, he called the trainer out, she worked on him a little bit,” said Cal associate head coach Tyler Browne. “But he’s been working hard, and we didn’t think it was productive for him to play that next match. We thought it would be counterproductive for his development for him to play.”
Lakat, who forms half of the nation’s second-ranked doubles team along with Bergevi, was teamed up with freshman Bjorn Hoffmann for the doubles portion of the tournament. They were seeded fourth and had little trouble winning in the first round against a team from Pacific. But the Bears were once again upset by USF, falling 8-7(6) to USF junior Oliver Poysti and TCU senior Jerry Lopez.
Hoffman was one of two freshmen playing collegiate tennis for the first time. He beat Stanford junior Brandon Sutter in the first round but lost to fifth-seeded Cal Poly junior Ben Donovan in the second. Fellow freshman Dominic Barretto fared similarly, defeating a player from Pepperdine easily in the first round but falling to the third seeded player, UC Davis senior Alec Adamson.
“What we like to look for as coaches is to see that the things that we’ve been talking about and working on are being shown in the actual matches,” Browne said. “We’ve only had these (freshmen) for a couple weeks now. (Barretto) is a fast young player, and we’re trying to get him to play like a fast young player, which means making more shots and being a little more patient on the court.”
Sophomore Gunther Matta fared no better than the freshman, earning a bye in the first round and losing 6-0, 6-0 in the second round to USC freshman Riley Smith.
An underwhelming preseason doesn’t mean the Bears will be unable to fulfill expectations in the more important dual match season, but that doesn’t make the performances any more impressive.
Andrew Wild covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].