Rivalry matches tend to bring out the best in tennis players. One only has to look at Davis Cup matches between the United States and Russia, or French Open matches between Serena Williams and Justine Henin Hardenne. Players and teams push their opponents to the max, forcing their rivals to go for more and ultimately play better.
One only has to look at the matches that the two teams played last year to see how closely matched these rivals are — both were down to the wire 4-3 matches. When No. 8 Stanford and the No.16 Cal women’s tennis team play each other Saturday, there will be a lot at stake, and that should have both teams fired up from the onset. Beyond bragging rights, the winner of this match will also clinch the Pac-12 regular season title, something that eluded the Bears last season. Both teams bring in impressive records: the Cardinal is undefeated in Pac-12 play while the Bears haven’t lost at home all season. Bottom line, someone’s streak is going to come to an end.
Cal certainly looks to be up to the challenge. The Bears are playing some of their best tennis of the season and are extremely confident after two 7-0 routs against Washington and Washington State. Cal is healthy and finally starting to look like a team that many thought would contend for a regular season championship.
“You don’t really need any extra motivation for a Stanford match,” said Cal coach Amanda Augustus. “I think we’ve been looking forward to this match, but at the end of the day, it’s just another game against a high ranked opponent. It’ll be really great tennis and fun for the fans to watch.”
For the Bears to win this match, they must play aggressively, especially in doubles. This has been something that Augustus has been preaching all season. Cal has responded better as of late, but at times during the season, the team loses focus and falls back into a defensive brand of tennis.
Against a strong Cardinal attack, this is something that the Bears cannot afford to do. For them to win the doubles point, they they must dictate play and force Stanford onto the back foot. If the team can come out strong in doubles and poach effectively, Cal will have a very strong chance of capturing a crucial doubles point before what is likely to be very evenly matched singles play.
With a sold-out match and sunny weather expected Saturday at the Hellman Tennis Center, tennis fans can surely expect a cracker of a game. While this may not be the last time these two teams face each other as the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments loom ahead, this match will surely be close. Ultimately, a match like this between two evenly matched teams comes down to who wants it more. Who is willing to chase down an extra ball and force their opponent to hit one more shot? With the Bears being at home and having the full support of the home crowd, there is no reason that they can’t walk away with the win and the conference title.
Praveen Kuruppu covers women’s tennis. Contact him at