Streaking Cal Menís Tennis Team Hosts USC, UCLA

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By David Bush, Staff Writer
Posted Apr 8, 2015
If by BearInsider Staff or Contributor, this article is Copyright © 2015 BearInsider.com


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Andre Goransson -Photo by goldenbearsports.com
The Cal men’s tennis team is on something of a roll, having won seven straight matches, including all four in the Pac-12.†
But things will get a little tougher as the Bears close close out their home season with matches against USC and UCLA at the Hellman Tennis Complex
“USC is the defending national champion, they’re very solid, very strong,” Cal coach Peter Wright said. “UCLA has had an interesting season. Their ranking (No. 15) probably isn’t a reflection of how good they are. They just had a few difficult results early, but they’re back and playing very well now. Our conference does incredibly well nationally.”
The Trojans, ranked fifth in the country, take on the No. 27 Bears Friday afternoon. “USC has a lot of people back, but they have a lot of new guys,” Wright said. “They have done a great job, five out of six years they’ve been national champions. A very impressive run they’ve had.”
Seniors Yannick Hanfmann and Robert Quiroz top the Trojans lineup. As a doubles team they rank fifth in the country and in singles Hanfmann is sixth and Quiroz 19th. USC is 18-3 overall and, like Cal and UCLA, 4-0 in the Pac-12.
Going into Friday’s match at Stanford, the Bruins (13-6) have won five in a row and seven of eight. Freshman Martin Redlicki, who usually plays on Court 2, is the reigning conference Player of Week, and teammate Mackenzie McDonald, who mans Court 1, won the conference honor the week before.
Cal’s top two players, sophomores Andre Goransson and Filip Bergevi, who both hail from Sweden, have gotten into the rivalry aspect. “It’s always fun to play Stanford, USC and UCLA,” said Goransson whose older sister Annie played for the Cal women and is a big reason he came to Berkeley. “The atmosphere is always different, a lot more tense, you want to win really badly.”
Bergevi agrees. ” I notice that, especially against Stanford (whom the Bears play next week),” he said. “I think it is more from a coaching standpoint; he’s (Wright) been here 21 years playing against these guys, This is only my second year. But I feel a little special to play against USC, UCLA and Stanford.”
The Bears (16-5) have a young team, heavy on freshmen and sophomores. With youth comes inconsistency. “We started out the year quite well. And then we had a couple of little hiccups in the middle,” Wright said. “We are on a seven-match winning streak, we’re 4-0 in the Pac-12, we’re tied for first place in the Pac-12 going into the last three matches of the regular season.
“While we could have been in a better spot, I like the way we’ve handled some adversity, two thirds of our starting lineup is freshmen and sophomores. There is the inevitable hiccup you experience playing with youth. But the nice part of it is we’ve been playing well lately and hopefully we’ll continue that into the postseason.”
“We have had some ups and downs,” Goransson said. “But I think we’re getting back and I think we’re really clicking.”
Said Bergevi, “We are getting real strong again and coming back from our small little dip in the middle of the season. Now is probably the strongest we’ve been this season. … Every win you get you gain a little bit of confidence and you get stronger. Especially coming into this weekend you want to have some wins behind you so have the confidence.”
Speaking about tennis with a collective pronoun is something different for Goransson and most foreign players. The emphasis there is on the individual, not a team. “In Sweden you either turned professional or you went to college,” he said. “There is nothing like this level.”
And it has required an adjustment. “You have to face many more difficulties mentally with the team. It’s a lot louder here. You just have to really stay focused,” he said. “At first it was (difficult) my freshmen year. The whole atmosphere is different. But once you get used to it you can use it as a tool to get better. And it helps you lift your game.”
Bergevi had some team experience in his homeland. “We have some club matches, so I did play on some teams,” he said. “But not really at the same level or the same importance as it is here. That’s the reason I wanted to come here, a chance at the team thing. I really like playing on a team.
“Normally I play my best matches when I play on a team and we help each other out. Just the team sprit, the fact we are out here practicing together every day. We are getting real close to each other. And then when it comes to matches we all know each other really well and everyone is out there fighting for each other. And that is one of the most inspiring parts.
“You can be competitive when you are on your own or playing professionally or like I played juniors in Sweden, (but) you are pretty much alone out there. There is a big difference practicing and playing with the team. It gives you more motivation.”
That is a selling point Wright uses as he recruits abroad.
“Being on a team for a tennis player, it’s a little bit like golfers,” he said. “Look at golfers, they love being part of the Ryder Cup. They’re used to representing themselves and their own interests. For tennis players it’s much the same. When they have an opportunity to play on a team they jump at that opportunity.
“Some are better at that than others. It’s my job to find the guys who are really going to thrive in the team environment. We have very good team chemistry. We really try to select guys who want to be part of something, who want to be on a team. Many of them have wanted to be on a team all their lives, so this their opportunity to do it. It really is a sense of working together for a common goal as opposed to working for an individual goal.”
Of the dozen players on the Cal roster, six are from other countries, a continuation of Cal’s global tradition.
“We’ve had players from all over the world,” Wright said. “We’ve had them from Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Europe, South America. It’s just indicative of tennis as a global sport. …. We have an international university, our student body is international and our sport is very international.”
Both Goransson and Bergevi plan on getting their degrees. Berfgevi plans to major in sociology. “I want to work with people, maybe as a psychologist,” he said.
Goransson also is considering a sociology major, although he is also looking at studying drama. “I do like acting. I am taking a drama course right now. I really like it,” he said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever done it. I’ve always been interested in trying it out.”
But, of course, both plan to give pro tennis a try after their Cal careers. Wright, who played on the pro tour himself, thinks they have potential.
“Andre is a very powerful player,” Wright said. “He is what he looks like. He’s a big (6-3, 187) †strong guy and he plays a very powerful game. He tends to throw his opponents’ rhythm off because he’s a very aggressive attacker. One of his strengths is that he’s unpredictable and one of his weaknesses is that he’s unpredictable. So we’re working with him to more clearly define his game and his game patterns. But he has all the ingredients to be one of the best players in college tennis and have a professional career.
“Filip is more of a classic player, so he does everything well, big serve, big forehand. †His approach to coming forward, playing more at the net has improved dramatically. It has made him a better doubles player. He’s also learning there are certain patterns of play that are more successful than others, And so working with him to pattern his point development has been an interesting journey for him and one that is really starting to bear fruit.”
The highlight of the season, and in fact probably the last several seasons, was the unveiling of the revamped Hellman Center. The facility, which opened in 1983, underwent a $2.3 million facelift which included elevated seating overlooking all six courts and new locker rooms and showers. It formally opened Jan. 23 with a two-day four-team tournament including Harvard, Mississippi State and North Carolina State. Cal beat Harvard and MSU to win the event.
“What a high that was,” Wright said. “What a great day that was. So many things came together. The support from our tennis community, phenomenal. These facilities have just been transformational for this program.”
And they could provide the Bears a much needed ally in the difficult matches this weekend. †“Playing here in Berkeley we have a home court advantage. We have great fans, this new stadium seating it gives us one of the best facilities in the conference in terms of watching a college tennis match.”
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