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A New Kind of Family: Andre Goransson's journey to Cal

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OCTOBER 14, 2014

Andre Goransson watched his television set intently, absorbed in the tennis match being played. Hours later, the young Goransson was still a spectator, now at his older siblings’ practice, in awe of their talent. For now, he was just doing a lot of watching, but soon enough, he would be the one being watched.

Goransson was raised in a family in which tennis was at the forefront of everything. Growing up in Hollviken, Sweden, Goransson witnessed all three of his older siblings play tennis competitively, and his parents even met through tennis. Goransson, now a 20-year-old sophomore, is the youngest of the lot, with his brother Claes, 22, his sister Annie, 25, and his oldest brother Tim, 26.

“I can’t really remember a time I wasn’t part of tennis,” Goransson says. “Either I was watching my brother, my sister or my other brother play. There was always tennis on TV. Before I started playing myself, I was watching.”

Goransson frequented his siblings’ matches, savoring the opportunity to cheer them on. After serving as an avid onlooker at his siblings’ practices, Goransson picked up a racquet at the age of 5 and steadily grew more captivated by the sport. Along with his siblings, Goransson first started training with his father, who was one of the primary tennis influences in his life.

But despite the ubiquity of tennis in his life, Goransson was never pressured to play tennis. He instead viewed his siblings’ accomplishments as a source of motivation to excel as they did and started practicing with them at the age of 14.

“I started playing with my sister first and then more with my younger brother,” Goransson says. “We all practiced with each other when we got to that point where it was beneficial for both of us.”

Along the way, Goransson began to develop a friendship with fellow Swedish tennis phenom Filip Bergevi. The two first crossed paths when Goransson was just 12 years old, competing in the final match of the Swedish championship for juniors. Goransson would emerge victorious, but this wasn’t always the case.

“We played each other around 25 times, and we were always close in those matches,” Goransson says.

Goransson also began training at the National Tennis Center, a hotbed for the premier youth tennis talent in the country, where Bergevi also trained. As two of the top-ranked juniors in the country, they frequently traveled to tournaments together, including a trip to France and Italy to represent Sweden in the European boys’ cup.

The pair grew even closer when Bergevi transferred to Goransson’s high school during their junior year. Their relationship, previously centered solely on tennis, began to expand outside the sport.

“When we started going to high school together, we saw each other every day,” Goransson says. “We’d hang out a lot and help each other in school.”

Heading into their senior year of high school, both Goransson and Bergevi set their sights on playing collegiate tennis in the United States. But neither of them could’ve predicted they would end up as teammates at UC Berkeley.

Goransson’s exposure to UC Berkeley and its tennis program began even before he started to seriously contemplate his options after high school. Annie, his sister, was a star for the Cal women’s tennis team, and his family developed a close relationship with the Cal men’s tennis head coach, Peter Wright. Annie constantly raved about UC Berkeley and her love for the school, and after visiting his sister at UC Berkeley when he was a freshman in high school, Goransson was impressed.

“It was just one of those natural things that when it came time to look at schools and look at universities, he was already familiar with Berkeley,” Wright says. “His sister did a great job playing on the women’s team, so as he progressed up the rankings — he was one of the top juniors in Sweden — it started to look like a natural fit.”

At the time Wright began recruiting Goransson, he was also looking at Bergevi. But unlike Goransson, Bergevi had no existing ties to UC Berkeley. Still, Bergevi committed along with Goransson in November of their senior year, much to Goransson’s delight.

“It became a deal where we were looking at Andre and looking at Filip,” Wright says. “Then, when we realized how close they were as friends and how close their families were, we said, ‘Let’s make this a package deal, and let’s bring you both out together for a great experience.’ ”

Leaving Sweden, the country he lived in his whole life, wasn’t going to be easy. But Goransson found himself unable to pass up the opportunity to combine education with an elite tennis program. Had he stayed in Sweden, he would have been forced to make a choice between the two. Despite his aspirations to eventually play professionally, Goransson knew he still needed to refine his game before he was ready to make the leap to play at the next level.

He also knew that having his older sister at UC Berkeley meant he would have someone to ease the transition. Bergevi didn’t have the same luxury, but Goransson and Bergevi helped each other feel comfortable and slowly grew accustomed to their new lifestyle.

“Everything’s so different, like the speed of things in America — everything goes so quickly compared to Sweden,” Goransson says.

Goransson looked to Bergevi as someone who was going through the same challenges as he was and sought comfort in his presence. Despite the adjustment process they endured, they remained upbeat and brought their vibrant personalities to the team.

“They’re tremendously good buddies — they like to laugh a lot, they have fun together and there’s great, positive energy from both of them,” Wright says.

For Goransson, this was his first time playing on a team. Unlike high schools in the United States, Swedish schools don’t have tennis teams. His tennis career had been predicated around individual success, training with other individuals at an academy until he came to UC Berkeley. The transition meant adjusting his focus from being solely on individual results to being on balancing his desires to better himself and help the team succeed.

Goransson quickly bought into the concept of a team and relished the inevitable ups and downs that competing as a team brought. He cherished the victories and comforted his teammates in their losses. He also grew close to Wright, who mentored him and even served as a “life coach” at times, according to Goransson.

“It’s easy to be all together in the highs, but when you have some challenges, you really learn a lot about your team and your teammates,” Wright says. “Our team gets closer when the going gets tough — they really come together well, and Andre really helps that happen.”

Kapil Kashyap covers men's tennis. Contact him at [email protected]

OCTOBER 25, 2015

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