After Cal men’s tennis came back from the brink to defeat the Trojans, the team was forced to remember that in tennis, there is always a chance for victory. When the No. 29 Bears drove down to Palo Alto this past weekend to face the No. 20 Stanford Cardinal, it seemed like it could be anyone’s game.
On paper, Stanford is a terrifying opponent for the Bears. The Cardinal boast the fifth-ranked singles player in the country in Arthur Fery, as well as No. 21 Max Basing and No. 49 Samir Banerjee. In doubles, the Cardinal pair of Nishesh Basavareddy and Fery are ranked No. 23, although this time around, Basavareddy was paired with Basing. This means that across the board, Stanford’s players were ranked higher than the Bears.
To start off the day, for the fifth time this season, Cal lost the doubles point. Cal’s Siddhant Banthia and Carl Emil Overbeck lost 6-1 on court one to Stanford’s Banerjee and Fery. On court three, Philip Hjorth and Yuta Kikuchi upset Basavareddy and Basing, leaving court two to be the deciding match. In a close 7-6(3) match, Lucas Magnaudet and Jackson Ryder fell to Stanford’s Aryan Chaudhary and Filip Kolasinski, putting Stanford at 1-0 ahead of Cal.
“No doubt, we (have) got to do a better job in doubles,” said head coach Kris Kwinta. “We’re one of the top teams in doubles as we showed at the beginning of the year. Somewhere along the way we lost it, and now we can’t seem to find our form in doubles.”
Kwinta added that the team will be working on improving its doubles play before its next matchups, potentially even mixing up the Bears’ doubles pairings.
Stanford then quickly notched a second point by being the first to earn a singles win when No. 5 Fery defeated Kikuchi.
But then, Cal pushed back — hard.
For those who have never gone to watch a tennis game in Palo Alto, Stanford’s tennis courts are set up differently to those at the Bears’ home Hellman Tennis Complex; courts four, five and six are separate from courts one, two and three.
“Playing at Stanford (is) always tricky. Unlike at home where we have six courts in a row, Stanford has three courts in the stadium and three courts out back,” Hjorth said. “You definitely feel this energy is very split, it’s like playing two different matches. For the third set, I had no idea what was going on in the stadium.”
Cal won the next three points back to back-to-back on courts four, five and six. On court four, sophomore Derrick Chen defeated Stanford’s Kolasinski in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4. Senior Hjorth also defeated his opponent in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6(3). Finally, Banthia came back against Stanford’s Isaac Gorelik after falling in the first set, 4-6, 6-0, 6-3.
That put the score at 3-2 — Cal just needed to win one more point, and it would have defeated its longtime rival for the second time this season. It all came down to what happened on courts two and three.
The scores on both courts were extremely similar. Jackson and Overbeck both fell in their respective first sets, both with 4-6, then both came back in the second. They both went on to lose their third sets: No. 49 Banerjee defeated Jackson 6-4, 5-7, 6-3, while No. 21 Basing defeated Overbeck 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-2.
Despite the close results, Kwinta didn’t think his team put out its best performance.
“To be honest, we completely underperformed. I didn’t think we showed up with the best tennis we are capable of, not even close,” Kwinta said. “We didn’t play good tennis, especially in key moments. We should have won the match if we played up to our level.”
Looking ahead, the Bears will play at Oregon on April 21 and end its regular season at Washington on the 23rd before kicking off the postseason.