Cal men’s tennis to face toughest test of season in Los Angeles

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Maddie Khamnei/File

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After almost two weeks of preparation, Cal men’s tennis heads to Los Angeles for potentially the toughest weekend on the schedule. They will face No. 7 UCLA Friday and immediately follow that up with No. 5 USC Saturday.

These are the highest ranked teams that are currently on the Bears’ schedule and represent the best teams in the Pac-12. While these matches are not conference matches, which will be played in March, this is an opportunity to test these teams before they come to Berkeley. This weekend is almost repeated in March, but on the 29th they will play USC first before UCLA on the 30th. Last year the Bears lost at UCLA 0-4 and at USC 2-4 during conference play.

This is a chance for Cal to put themselves on the map with a huge upset over a ranked team. Previously, they lost close matches against now No. 22 Florida State and No. 13 Virginia. After disappointing showings, the team seemed eager to get a win in Los Angeles.

“Definitely in the gym we’re going to be working hard and getting strong, lifting iron and adding some serious MPHs to each one of our shots,” said Paul Barretto.

In both matches, the Bears took the doubles point, but were beaten in four of the six singles matches to lose each. The pairing of Yuta Kikuchi and Jacob Brumm reached as high as No. 8 on the most recent doubles poll, while the duo of Paul Barretto and Can Kaya climbed to No. 17.

“On court two, Can and I, who basically just promised each other that we’re just going to be slapping huge returns … and crack huge serves, and get all over the net,” Barretto said.

Unfortunately, Cal’s struggles in singles have been noticed by the polls as Paul Barretto fell from No. 98 to unranked. On the other hand, Bjorn Hoffmann remains undefeated in singles throughout all three matches.

So far, UCLA has only played two matches, after meetings with Nevada, UC Davis, BYU and St. Mary’s were postponed due to weather. However, during ITA Kickoff Weekend, which they played at UCLA, they did beat Indiana 4-1 and then San Diego 4-1 the following day. Currently UCLA has no ranked players in singles or doubles, but remains ranked at No. 7 as a team.

USC has played more matches and is looking quite formidable. They have already beaten South Carolina, Cal Poly, UC Santa Barbara, UC Davis and San Francisco, all of which they lost at most one point per match. USC also has six players in the top-100 singles including No. 4 Daniel Cukierman and No. 31 Laurens Verboven. In doubles, Cukierman and Tanner Smith are placed at No. 21.

Like previous matches, Cal is favored to win the doubles point, but they have yet to convert three of the singles matches to take home a win against a ranked opponent.

Trilok Reddy covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].