On an unseasonably warm February afternoon in Palo Alto, Cal men’s tennis moved to 3-3 on the season, losing to the No. 8 Stanford Cardinal 4-0 in the Big Slam in nonconference play.
The match began with the doubles point. Freshman Alex Chang and senior Philip Hjorth dropped the first doubles match, 1-6, to Stanford senior Sangeet Sridhar and fifth-year Timothy Sah on court three. Shortly thereafter, graduate transfer Sean Hill and sophomore Lucas Magnaudet lost their set, 2-6, to Stanford fifth-year Axel Geller and senior Tomas Kopczynski on court two, handing Stanford the doubles point.
The No. 8 Cal team of senior Yuta Kikuchi and freshman Carl Emil Overbeck led the No. 7 team of sophomore Arthur Fery and senior Alexandre Rotsaert 5-4 before Stanford clinched the doubles point. Prior to this match, Cal had clinched the doubles point in three consecutive matches.
“Doubles was a no-show so we handed them (the doubles point) besides one match obviously,” said head coach Kris Kwinta.
As doubles competition culminated, singles competition commenced. Hill was defeated by No. 74 Geller, 2-6, 2-6, on court three. Sridhar then defeated Magnaudet on court six, 6-2, 6-4. The overall match ended with Kikuchi’s loss to No. 1 Fery in a grueling match on court one, 2-6, 6-4, 2-6.
As a result, three singles matches would go unfinished. No. 38 Rotsaert led Hjorth, 6-2, 2-6, 5-4, on court two. No. 108 Stanford sophomore Aryan Chaudhary led Cal freshman Derrick Chen on court five, 1-6, 7-6 (4), 3-1. Finally, on court four, Overbeck led No. 49 Max Basing, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 3-1. This was Cal’s first road match since losing to Tulane in New Orleans on Jan. 17.
“We were very competitive in singles,” Kwinta said. “But overall as a team, we didn’t show up. We didn’t challenge them enough in my book. We’re going to talk about it. We’re going to look at the tape and do a little better job preparing the guys for matches on the road. We seemed a little shocked and didn’t compete well for sure.”
Despite the tough loss, there were several positives for Cal to take from this match.
“We did a much better job implementing the strategy that we talked about prior to our matches,” Kwinta said. “We spent a week after the USC loss really focusing and doubling down on the details of our strategies, and the guys, for the most part, have a better understanding of what we tried to accomplish there. In the pressure moments, we kind of went away from what was working for us, but in the grand scheme of things, that was better quality from us.”
“We have to do a better job holding serve and backing up our serves,” Kwinta added. “We got to have a little bit better chemistry in doubles and complementing each other. And finishing points on the mental side of`how to manage the nerves of the match better going forward.”
Stanford played the match with multiple ranked singles players, while Cal played with zero. But in case you’re wondering, Kwinta still does not care about player rankings.
“I only know Fery is around (the top), but I could care less,” Kwinta said. “Everybody’s beatable. I can point to every single player and show you 10 different ways of how to beat them. It’s just a matter of belief and execution. So no, I wasn’t that impressed with them at all.”
Cal will get its rematch against No. 8 Stanford in the second edition of the Big Slam this season in its final home match April 17. But first, Cal must get through its upcoming home match against Army on Feb. 26.
Abhi Erra covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].