Cal hosts preseason tournament in Napa

Before the regular tennis season officially commences in the spring, the Cal men’s tennis team participates in a new preseason tournament practically every weekend. Yet this weekend is actually different from the others, as the tournament is the Bears’ very own.

Eleven years ago, Peter Wright, head coach of the Cal men’s tennis team, and Meadowood Tennis Director Doug King started the Napa Valley Tennis Classic.

Since 2001, the Bears have been hosting this tournament, which is played annually at Meadowood Napa Valley in St. Helena, Calif., and largely dominating it.

This year should be no exception.

“This is always a big tournament for us,” Wright said. “Our guys have fared well in the past (at Napa Valley) so we are definitely looking to continue that trend.”

All 10 members of the squad will travel to beautiful Napa Valley this weekend, but only five players will compete in both singles and doubles matches, which begin on Friday.

Four of the five Cal players have previously participated in the Napa Classic, which also includes UCLA, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Tulsa and Vanderbilt.

For the second year in the row, eight top-ranked United States Tennis Association (UTSA) junior boys will be competing in the tournament. However, the college players’ performances against these juniors will not count toward national ranking.

“It will be a good opportunity for us and the juniors,” sophomore Ben McLachlan said. “I actually know some of the junior players so it would be funny if I got to play them.”

Doubles will be played in two rounds in a round-robin fashion. The first round is on Friday and the second on Saturday.

The singles part of the tournament is formatted such that the pool is separated into eight brackets of four players each, in which they will play round-robin style matches, similar to that of the doubles rounds. The eight overall winners from each group will be entered into a shootout, with the winner of the shootout deemed the Land Rover Napa Valley Tennis Classic champion.

That winner will receive a wild card spot in an as-of-now undetermined USTA Pro Circuit event.

Despite the fact that a tournament win would look impressive for the Bears, the goals of individual players are more modest.

“I really want to get in as many matches as I can so I can get into the rhythm of competing again,” junior Carlos Cueto said. “My goal is to just get in a lot of practice and become as physically fit as possible.”

For Ben McLachlan, the objective is simply to get some good matches in.

“Last year I didn’t play, but I got to watch. It is very pretty up there and it was kind of a nice vacation,” he said. “This year will be more work than vacation, but I am looking forward to actually playing.”