Nothing drives tennis players crazier than unwanted noise. At the recent US Open, even some of the best players in the world complained about the raucous crowd. But at least the fans in New York left their instruments at home. Hellman Tennis Complex was accompanied by drum beats coming from outside the courts for the entirety of the Battle in the Bay Qualifier last weekend, where thirty players from eight schools competed to earn spots in next week’s tournament.
Cal junior Lucas Magnaudet was one of just two players to qualify in singles. Underclassmen Derrick Chen and John Kim were on their way to earning the lone doubles bid, but had to withdraw from the final match due to injury.
The rest of the team participating also looked energetic and poised to kick off the new season, not even a street drummer could shake their composure. Cal head coach Kris Kwinta even remarked that he should have told the players to move their feet to the rhythm. He is determined to build a team that tunes all noise.
“Winning is done more outside of the court,” Kwinta said. “You build a family.”
Kwinta joined Cal last January, so had very little time to get to know his players before starting the season. But after a summer communicating and bonding with his players, Kwinta feels the Bears have embraced the mentality they need to thrive. Nobody complained about the drums, heat or last-minute schedule changes.
“The guys know how we like to play. We spend a lot of time talking about it. Everybody on the team is starting to understand who they are as players and as men. Once you have that understanding it’s a little easier to compete and battle together,” said Kwinta.
This mental fortitude was put on display by Magnaudet as he tore through the singles bracket. He was noticeably upset with UNLV’s Maxim Verboven, his quarter-final opponent. From Kwinta’s vantage point, Maxim was purposefully trying to get under Magnaudet’s skin.
“Verboven is a very seasoned player. This is his fifth year, he played in the SEC for four years, so he knows what he’s doing,” Kwinta said. “He realized [that] tennis-wise that day he wasn’t matching Lucas [Magnaudet], so his strategy was to distract him and make it not about tennis.”
But on that Saturday, Magnaudet was not going to be distracted. He beat Verboven in three sets to advance to a pivotal match against Stanford’s Neel Rajesh. The winner goes to the Battle in the Bay — the loser goes home.
The Cal junior was at the doorstep of triumph after winning the first set and leading 4-1, 40-15 in the second. But Rajesh was not going down without a fight: He came all the way back to win the second set 5-7, forcing a do-or-die third set. Many players would not be able to overcome their disappointment in time to win the final set, but Magnaudet was ready to meet the moment, taking the set 6-3.
This toughness is exactly what his coach said he wants to see out of the Bears this season.
“I was most impressed with how [Magnaudet] deals with adversity. All of these guys know how to hit a tennis ball. Withstanding adversity and moving past failure is the biggest skill to me,” said Kwinta.
And although Magnaudet was the only qualifier in this event, Kwinta saw the tournament as proof that his whole team is ready to thrive. If the Bears keep tuning out the noise and marching to the beat of their own drum, they can truly be a team opponents should fear.