Managing the nerves and stress that come with high-pressure matches is something that all great athletes need to be able to do. That’s how they become great at what they do.
On Friday, in a matchup of the cream of the crop, No. 15 senior Florian Lakat made a big serve followed by some powerful groundstrokes and a backhand that led to Oregon’s No. 26 Thomas Laurent’s ball sailing out wide, displaying his leadership and ability to pull through when he was most needed.
This past weekend, the No. 12 Cal men’s tennis team (17-6, 4-1) headed up north to face No. 23 Oregon (17-5, 3-3) and No. 37 Washington (12-9, 1-5). The Bears were able to come out on top for both of those matches, narrowly defeating the Ducks 4-3 and cruising past the Huskies in a 4-1 win.
“We had a really tough match with Oregon on Friday, and a lot of leadership from our senior class fought us through that match,” said Cal head coach Peter Wright. “We had a good meeting afterwards to talk about everybody’s role on the team.”
It’s clear that, especially in the match versus the Ducks, the seniors have been playing very large roles on the team. To start the match off on the right foot, the nation’s No. 4 duo of Lakat and senior Filip Bergevi claimed a close 7-5 victory over senior Jayson Amos and freshman Ty Gentry to clinch the doubles point for the Bears.
You would think that this energy would have carried through to singles victories up and down the lineup, but things seemed to take a turn for Cal, which lost three singles matches in a row to put Oregon up 3-1. Junior JT Nishimura, freshman Bjorn Hoffmann and No. 88 junior Billy Griffith all lost in straight sets. From that point on, it was all up to the seniors, and luckily for the Bears, they were all able to pull through. Bergevi’s win was followed by No. 45 Andre Goransson’s. Tied up at three apiece, it was Lakat’s 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 victory that brought home the win.
“Florian and Andre and Filip are really hitting their strides out there,” Wright said. “I would say really, it was more a sense of our chemistry in singles today. That’s what really made the difference.”
This nail-biting win was followed by a much easier match versus Washington, with the freshmen pair of Hoffmann and Nic Barretto clinching the doubles point for Cal. Barretto made the most of his time on the court after replacing Nishimura, who sprained his ankle in the previous match versus the Ducks.
Singles included solid performances by the Bears — Goransson and Lakat once again contributed to the win. This time, though, it was Griffith who clinched for Cal, defeating his opponent pretty easily (6-2, 6-4) to clinch the match and end the weekend on a high note for the Bears.
“I feel like we’re doing a good job at starting our matches off, and we’re spending a lot of time on bringing that momentum into singles,” Wright said. “We just need to get six guys focused at the same time out there. I think we’re starting to bring it together as we play against Stanford and enter into the postseason with the Pac-12 tournament and the NCAA tournament.”
Taylor Choe covers men’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected]