Cal men’s tennis divides and conquers in Milwaukee, San Francisco

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A strong victory in Napa Valley two weeks ago left the Bears hungry for more as Cal men’s tennis sends seven players to two different tournaments on opposite sides of the country this weekend.

Team head director Peter Wright will take junior Dominic Barretto, sophomore Paul Barretto and sophomore Can Kaya to the Milwaukee Tennis Classic, which kicks off Thursday, while associate head coach Tyler Browne accompanies junior Bjorn Hoffmann, sophomore Ben Draper, sophomore Jack Molloy and freshman Yuta Kikuchi to the Battle in the Bay Classic, which begins Friday.

“Our guys are starting the season strong — they want to perform at the highest level,” Wright said. “We’re going to face some tougher and stiffer competition in the coming weeks.”

The Battle in the Bay is familiar territory for the program, with Cal sending at least one player every season for the last 10 years. The Milwaukee Tennis Classic, however, is more unfamiliar, as no current Cal player has ever attended. The team is coached by Milwaukee veteran Wright, who attended when he played for Cal during the 1986-87 season.

Despite its distance, Wright is enthusiastic about attending the Milwaukee Invitational.

“We have to travel to get the best competition,” Wright said. “It’s quite a prestigious tournament.”

Now in its 10th year, the Battle in the Bay is a three-day annual tournament held at the California Tennis Club, the home courts of the University of San Francisco. The tournament is composed of singles and doubles draws with no team matchups or scoring. Last year, then-freshman Jacob Brumm won the consolation singles title by beating current teammate Mert Zincirli, who played for the University of San Francisco before transferring this summer.

The 43rd Milwaukee Tennis Classic is a four-day individual tournament on clay with a history of attracting top teams. Cal women’s tennis has notched seven titles since its first in 1989, but no man from Cal has hoisted the championship trophy at the Milwaukee Classic.

Dominic “Nic” Barretto is eager to get back to the courts after working hard all offseason, especially after his efforts on clay.

“This is my first college tournament back, and I haven’t played a college match in a while,” Barretto said. “I think I’m definitely a better player now than I was before, and I feel a lot more confident overall.”

Regardless of the outcome, this tournament is about learning for Wright and for the rest of the Bears.

“We want to see how they do with different levels of competition,” Wright said. “We call it not ‘winning and losing;’ we call it ‘winning and learning.’ ”

The next weekend, the Bears split up again between the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa and the Aggie Invitational in Davis. This starts an important time for the players, as the individual tournaments begin to get more frequent and have tougher competition.

“Each tournament we go to, we are really focused on carrying the momentum of the fall with us into the spring,” Wright said. “The end of September and the month of October are going to be key, critical months for us.”

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