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Men’s tennis aims to build off strong start

March 31, 2023

Courtesy of Brian Beard
GAME, SET, MATCH: Tristan Bradley ’23 looks to return the ball. Bradley and the rest of the men’s tennis team will play Wesleyan University tomorrow in their first game back from their annual California trip.

The men’s tennis team (7–1; 2–0 NESCAC) returned from its annual trip to California with a strong showing against national competition as they look toward NESCAC play.

While several matches had to be canceled due to weather, the Polar Bears, ranked 12th nationally, started their trip with four consecutive victories against Chapman University (5–7), Rhodes College (6–5), University of the Redlands (6–5), and Pomona-Pitzer (7–10).

Pieter Breuker ’25 said that the team’s competition in California typically begins with easier opponents before facing higher-ranked teams later in the trip.

Bowdoin narrowly suffered its first loss of the season against ninth-ranked Johns Hopkins (10–2) last Wednesday. After taking a 2–1 edge in doubles play, Hopkins split the singles matches with the Bears 3–3 to eke out the victory. Breuker lost the deciding singles match in a 4–6, 6–3, 7–6 (9–7) heartbreaker.

“Both teams lined up on the side of the net, being rowdy,” Breuker said. “Everyone was really into it.”

Captain Tristan Bradley ’23 said that the team took the loss in stride.

“It’s still a learning process,” Bradley said. “We don’t want to be playing our best tennis in the beginning of March.”

In its last match of the trip, the team bounced back with a 6–3 win over Caltech (6–3). Despite falling behind 2–1 in doubles, the Polar Bears won five of six singles matches to close out the trip with a victory.

In past years, Bowdoin began its spring matches with the California trip, but this season, the team played two warm-up matches against Amherst and Hamilton.

Breuker said that having experience before the California trip helped the team perform better because they had to start preparing further in advance, giving the Bears a more focused mindset before they headed west.

A prevailing theme for Bowdoin this year has been the discrepancy between singles and doubles, as the Polar Bears have generally been a stronger team in singles than in doubles. Bradley said that communication is the key to improving the team’s doubles record.

“Doubles in general is super fast,” Bradley said. “[We] have to be able to communicate with our partners and I think the communication aspect is something we’re still working on as a team.”

Breuker and his doubles partner, Ethan Bradley ’24, have been a consistent winning duo for the Polar Bears this season, giving the Polar Bears their sole doubles victories against Johns Hopkins and Caltech.

“We were more of a singles team last year,” Breuker said. “We’ve turned that around a little bit. I think our doubles has improved.”

Breuker also credits the team’s depth with its impressive start to the season. The team’s roster is deeper than it has been in recent years, he said, and that if the Polar Bears lose some players to injury, those spots can be filled.

Both Breuker and Bradley cited the team’s consistent focus on mindfulness as another key to the team’s success.

“The mind, essentially, is really more important than how you’re actually playing because all the players here are around the same level,” Bradley said. “That’s also why we have meditation before each practice or each match.”

Bradley added that the team is reading a book, Winning Ugly, about the mental challenges of tennis.

As the team prepares to face off against NESCAC competition, Breuker said that the Polar Bears’ confidence coming out of their trip is high, adding that the team’s experience level is higher than it’s been in prior seasons.

Bradley noted that Bowdoin will have to adjust to a different playing surface as it returns to matches in the Northeast. While the California matches were played outdoors, weather conditions mean that most NESCAC matches will be played at indoor venues.

The Polar Bears will travel to Wesleyan University (6–4; 2–2 NESCAC) for their next matchup tomorrow. Matches will begin at 10 a.m.


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