Cal men’s tennis gears up for All-American, Davis tournaments

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The Cal men’s tennis team has no time to rest from the two tournaments it competed in last weekend, as the Bears prepare for another two tournaments this weekend. Sophomores Jack Molloy, Jacob Brumm, Paul Barretto, Ben Draper and Bjorn Hoffmann, as well as freshman Yuta Kikuchi, will travel to the University of Tulsa for the Saint Francis Health System ITA All-American Championships along with men’s tennis director Peter Wright.

The nine-day tournament kicks off the prequalifying round Saturday.

“The All-American Tournament is one of the collegiate tennis slam events, and it has the best of the best,” Wright said. “To have six guys going there is a great opportunity for them.”

Juniors Dominic “Nic” Barretto and Mert Zincirli will split from the majority of the team to play in the Aggie Invitational at UC Davis. The tournament in Davis is a regional tournament that will include other West Coast teams such as Pacific, Santa Clara, Saint Mary’s, Stanford and UC Davis. Nic and Zincirli will be joined by former Cal player J.T. Nishimura, who now serves as an undergraduate assistant to the team.

“It is a strong field on the collegiate tennis landscape,” Wright said. “I think one of the best regional tournaments we have.”

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association is the organization that releases rankings for college tennis players. In the preseason polls, a number of Bears made the list. No. 102 Jacob Brumm and No. 113 Jack Malloy were ranked in singles, while the duo of Can Kaya and Mert Zincirli was ranked at No. 59 in doubles. Wright, however, doesn’t like to focus on the rankings, but rather on preparation and improvement.

“The rankings to us don’t really mean a lot. … There’s not much value in them for us,” Wright said. “The value for us comes in terms of how we develop and how we play our team matches in the spring.”

The team’s only freshman, Yuta Kikuchi, also came in at No. 8 on the list of top 10 new players.

“He is certainly doing a great job in that role,” Wright said. “That’s the beauty of Yuta as a person — he loves the challenge and he rises to the challenge.”

The biggest and most telling tournament of the fall comes next month at the ITA Northwest Regional Championships. This is when the Bears will face Pac-12 foes, including Stanford, Oregon and Washington, in full force with the entire team.

Regardless of the tournaments the Bears play in the fall, Wright has his eyes set on much bigger battles to come.

“We’re really trying to prepare for the spring season. Every tournament we play in helps us prepare for the spring,” Wright said. “I don’t let the results overshadow the development that our guys are working on.”

Nevertheless, the results are promising. Cal took the men’s doubles title at the Milwaukee Tennis Classic last weekend and the players are, no doubt, looking for more.

“They’ve all improved in many ways. That’s the most encouraging thing for us,” Wright said. “It certainly puts a pep in your step.”

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