Doubles action leads the way for Cal men’s tennis in San Diego

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Maddie Khamnei/File

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The Cal men’s tennis team capped off a busy, yet successful weekend in San Diego with a flurry of impressive wins. The trip down south turned out to be a much needed change of scenery, as the team was sharp and efficient in its play.

Without dropping a set, Cal cruised to a 4-0 win against San Diego State on Thursday. All the remaining singles matches on court were suspended, but at the time of stoppage, Cal players held leads in all of those matches.

Doubles play was impressive with games coming at a premium for the Aztecs, as they were no match for Cal’s depth. The Bears made quick work of their opponents, especially on courts No. 2 and No. 3. Sophomore Dominic Barretto and freshman Can Kaya blanked sophomores Joel Popov and Arnaud Restifo, 6-0, and soon thereafter, freshmen Ben Draper and Jack Molloy finished up with a 6-1 win over senior Santiago Cevallos and sophomore Rafael Gonzalez Almazan that clinched the doubles point.

Ultimately, it was Molloy who clinched the overall match for the Bears, who were desperate for a victory after losing last weekend to No. 2 Stanford at home. The freshman defeated Almazan 6-4, 6-0, slamming the door after a competitive first set. Draper, Brumm and senior Billy Griffith collected the other points for Cal with straight set singles victories.

The Bears’ busy weekend also featured the Pacific Coast Men’s Doubles Championships in La Jolla. The tournament consisted of an open draw — meaning non-collegiate players were eligible to compete.

While the results did not count toward the team’s overall record, the tournament provided the Bears with crucial doubles experience. For a young team still seeking its rhythm early in matches, doubles play has been an area of weakness to start the season for Cal.

Griffith and senior JT Nishimura, who have played at the No. 1 doubles position all season long, led the group of Cal players as the No. 2 pairing. Draper and Molloy were also in the draw and seeded No. 9, followed by two other duos representing the Bears.

When it was all said and done, two Cal pairs made the quarterfinals of the prestigious tournament –– a massive improvement from the team’s performance last year. Griffith and Nishimura were expected to reach that stage of the draw, but freshmen Brumm and Paul Barretto exceeded expectations by also reaching the final eight.

Barretto and Brumm weaved their way to the quarterfinals with a pair upsets in the third and fourth rounds. Until facing USC freshman Daniel Cukierman and redshirt junior Tanner Smith, the pair was barely surrendering games to their opponents. Despite the 6-4, 6-2 loss to the Trojans, the coaching staff must be pleased with the performance of two of Cal’s budding stars.

A weekend full of doubles play was a much-needed experience for the Bears. The improvements that Cal displayed will undoubtedly help them as the young season, and will make a huge difference as the Bears move toward the heart of their Pac-12 schedule.

Charlie Griffen covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].

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