The Battle of the Bay.
Cal and Stanford will write another chapter in the long and treasured history between the two rivals Saturday in Palo Alto, California.
“It’s a great rivalry. Everytime we play Stanford … we just have incredible matches with them,” said Cal men’s tennis head coach Peter Wright. “They’re a well-coached team, they’ve got a great history, and so we look forward to a great year of challenges with them again.”
No. 18 Cal is eager to get back on the courts after an unusual extended period of rest of nearly two weeks. A severe weather storm prevented the Bears from flying out to Duke for a chance to qualify for the ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championship, which took place this past weekend.
“Our guys were pretty disappointed about that and have been chomping at the bit to get out there and play,” Wright said.
Using the time off to their advantage, the players have been practicing new techniques and honing their skills. The extra practice allows players to strengthen their weaknesses and accept mistakes throughout the process. Come game time, however, failure is not an option on the tennis courts. Cal will look to build off its big upset wins over Texas and then-No. 2 TCU.
“Gaining momentum and gaining a lot of confidence going into the next match is important,” said senior Oskar Wikberg. “We could be one of the best teams in the nation if we all compete and we all play hard.”
Cal will face a tough test against No. 22 Stanford, which is coming off consecutive losses to Texas and TCU. So far this season, the Cardinal have swept all four of its opponents at home. Last season, all three matches between the two teams came down to the wire. In 2014-15, Cal and Stanford split the regular season matchups, but in the Pac-12 Men’s Tennis Championship Tournament, the Bears suffered a heartbreaking 4-1 loss to the Cardinal.
Stanford is led by sophomore Tom Fawcett, who is ranked No. 3 in the nation. Fawcett and his freshman teammate No. 113 Sameer Kumar have strung together impressive individual performances, having each won their past seven singles matches. Fawcett in particular has won handily against top opponents, including the likes of No. 6 Cameron Norrie, No. 13 Joao Monteiro and No. 69 Freddy Gelbrich.
Cal and No. 4 Andre Goransson are intent on handing Stanford a third consecutive loss and snapping Fawcett and Kumar’s winning streaks. Goransson will look to bounce back after a miserable singles outing against Norrie in which he lost in straight sets 6-1, 6-3. A potential matchup to look out for is one between Goransson and Fawcett, two of the top collegiate tennis players in the country. A win for either player would do wonders for his confidence going forward. As for the rest of the team, the Bears and Cardinal will be evenly matched, with five and six nationally ranked players, respectively.
“It’ll be an exciting day,” Wright said. “But we certainly want to set the tone for the rivalry.”