No. 40 Bears to play at No. 7 Stanford in ‘Big Slam’

A tennis player prepares to swing at the ball with his racket.
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Cal men’s tennis continues its nonconference tour of California this weekend as the team travels across the Bay to play Stanford this Sunday afternoon. Similar to the previous matches against UCLA and USC, this match is not counted as a Pac-12 match, with the actual conference match scheduled for April 13, when the Cardinal will travel to Berkeley.

The Bears were supposed to play a doubleheader in Stockton this past weekend against both UNLV and Pacific, but it was canceled Friday afternoon because of expected rain in Stockton. This was the second time the match against Pacific was postponed because of rain after it was initially scheduled for Jan. 15. The match against UNLV has not been rescheduled, but the Pacific match has been moved to March 5, when Cal will also take on St. Mary’s in Berkeley.

In the most recent round of rankings, which was expanded to 50 teams instead of 25, Cal made the team rankings for the first time, appearing at No. 40. Despite the victory at USC two weeks ago, the Bears remained off the charts in the singles rankings. There hasn’t been a top-125 singles player from Cal since Paul Barretto was placed at No. 98 in November 2018.

The Bears remain in high regard on the doubles charts, with three pairings in the top 50. Although Yuta Kikuchi and Jacob Brumm moved out of the top 10 from No. 8 to No. 13 and Paul Barretto and Can Kaya dropped from No. 17 to No. 31, the duo of Jack Molloy and Mert Zincirli climbed onto the rankings for the first time at No. 42.

Stanford has also been working its way up the rankings, jumping from an already impressive No. 10 to No. 6 in the most recent polls, earning impressive wins against now-No. 7 Florida and now-No. 30 Tulane. If mutual opponent scores are used as a prediction, however, the match should be very close. Both Cal and Stanford lost to No. 4 Virginia, 2-4, and won at USC, 4-3. The Trojans even lost to both teams on back-to-back days in the same weekend after blowing a 3-1 lead.

The Cardinal has a 7-2 overall record with its second loss coming from No. 1 Ohio State.

Stanford does not have any ranked doubles pairings and dropped the doubles point against USC — which Cal won — but Stanford’s first doubles pairing of Axel Geller and Alexandre Rotsaert defeated USC’s Brandon Holt and Riley Smith, the same team that defeated Brumm and Kikuchi. The Cardinal also boasts an intimidating singles lineup with No. 13 Geller backed up by players at No. 31, No. 39 and No. 60.

Last year, the Bears were routed in both matches against the Cardinal, losing the nonconference, 1-4, and the conference matchup, 0-4. The Stanford team is packed with talent, but Cal is used to playing ranked teams and has been able to keep it close in matches when it was the underdog. This matchup provides the opportunity to see if the win at USC was a fluke or if Cal really belongs with the top teams.

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