No one would have ever thought that the outcome of last weekend’s men’s tennis match between No. 9-ranked Pepperdine and No. 18-ranked Cal Berkeley would hinge on an ex-Pepperdine player, but that is just what happened on Sunday afternoon. The 4-2 victory over the Golden Bears brought the Waves’ record to 7–2 in dual match action, while the Golden Bears slipped to 4-3 on the season.
In lieu of the pouring rain from the night before, both coaches from Pepperdine and Cal Berkeley decided to forego doubles play at the Ralph Strauss Tennis Center and let the winner be determined solely by singles competition.
So Pepperdine senior Sebastien Graeff found himself facing previous Wave and current Golden Bear, Chase Exon, at the No. 6 spot, which ended up determining the match.
“It was somewhat surreal having the match come down to a tie-breaker between Chase and Sebastien,” Pepperdine coach Peter Smith said. “Both players really fought hard and showed a lot of character.”
Graeff’s victory was a hard fought, three-set, come-from-behind 5-7, 6-1, 7-6 battle that could have gone either way.
“(Playing against Exon) was strange in a way.” Graeff said. “In fact the whole day was strange. For all of us it was hard to get into a rhythm. I knew that playing in the No. 6 spot would be big and that the outcome would come down to my match. At first it felt like an old challenge match in practice and that was weird. But by the end, I just wanted to win.”
Adding to the win was an exciting match at the No. 1 singles spot, where senior Al Garland defeated John Paul Fruttero in a nail-biter, come-from-behind victory 3-6, 6-4 and 7-5.
“It was tough coming from the previous weekend playing indoors and the fact that it was a windy day,” Garland said. “It was hard to get a rhythm and I really wasn’t ready to play. I wasn’t playing with much confidence and then I kind of picked it up and hung in there and won the third.”
Stefan Suter won at the No. 2 singles spot with relative ease, 6-3, 7-5, against Wayne Wong, despite some physical weakness
“I have not been confident due to my injuries in looking back to the closing of my previous matches,” Suter said. “So it was exciting for me to see how good my performance was against Cal.”
Steve Racioppi easily defeated Robert Kowalczyk 6-4, 6-4 in the No. 4 spot. The only wins for Cal were by Balazs Veress who defeated Calle Hansen 6-1, 7-5 and Mik Ledvonover, who defeated Johan Berg 6-3, 7-6.
The No. 9 Waves improved to a 7-2 record with this third consecutive win, while the No. 18 Golden Bears fell to 4-3.
The Pepperdine men’s tennis team prepares to return to action tomorrow against San Diego State at 1:30 and Saturday against Santa Clara at 1:00 at the Ralph Strauss Center in preparation for next week’s bigger matchup.
Later on in the week, in what could be the biggest game this year, they will travel to cross town nemesis UCLA on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 1:30.
February 21, 2002