In reading a long novel, there are two types of people: those who immediately skip to the end and read the last sentence, and those who wait, embracing the inevitable ups and downs in the hope that the conclusion is satisfactory. Although it is the long route, the painful route and the time-consuming route, the ending is often sweeter to those who wait.
After a trying set of Saturday and Sunday matches at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend in Stanford, Cal embodies the latter. The Bears entered the first weekend of their spring season aware of expectations and the importance of matches where wins and losses are now tallied.
As the No. 13 team in the nation, Cal was just beginning to write its story. A first-round victory over a physical and aggressive Miami (FL) team set the tone early for the Bears’ weekend and novel. Cal won all six of its singles matches against the Hurricanes, and emerged victorious in two of its three doubles matches to secure a convincing 4-0 shutout.
“We played a strong match against Miami, a really physical match. They’re a talented team and they had a lot of firepower. We played a very tight doubles point with them, and then we came out in the singles,” said Peter Wright, director of Cal men’s tennis.
The dropped match in doubles did not appear to be a major issue, but it did persist into the next round when the Bears took on No. 11 Stanford in a preview of the Big Slam. The Cardinal took advantage, besting Cal in two doubles matches and securing a finals victory before the third doubles match could even be completed.
“Doubles is an area where we can certainly improve. For our singles, we are just going to be getting more physical. Overall, we missed a few opportunities today and I think that is just going to come with more repetition,” Wright said.
Singles didn’t appear to go any better for the Bears, as Stanford won three singles matches, leaving the other three matches unfinished. It wasn’t all bad for Cal, however, as four of the six singles battles went to three sets — demonstrating just how close the Bears are to getting over the hump. Wright and the team aren’t going to roll over after one loss, however.
“(This) is chapter one of a long book. Our season is going to have many more chapters in it. Our guys get to write the book and the nice part for us is that we get to walk away from this weekend, knowing where some of the areas are that we need to improve,” Wright said. “We’re on the pathway to writing that last chapter of the book with a very positive ending.”
In the first chapter of this long novel of a season, our protagonists found themselves setup for the future, an image of their journey to success becoming apparent. Part of the hero’s journey is the abyss, when it seems daunting to even continue.
While an early season loss to rival Stanford could seem shattering for the 1-1 Bears, it is important to remember how closely they write the victor’s narrative. Wright and his squad are clearly ready to tackle what is next, and fans should be excited to see how this novel unfolds.
Kabir Rao covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].