Cal men’s tennis striving to break slump in Utah

Karen Chow /File

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After four straight home matches, Cal men’s tennis hits the road to play at Utah this weekend before returning home to face UCSB. The Bears are heading into the match against the Utes after a two-game slump from last week’s losses to USC and UCLA.

After those two home defeats, the Bears fell to No. 46 on the most recent rankings. In the doubles polls, Paul Barretto and Can Kaya slipped out of the rankings, and Yuta Kikuchi and Jacob Brumm fell four spots to No. 17.

Kikuchi and Brumm have not played doubles together since March 17 because of a wrist injury Brumm sustained in early March. It is unclear whether Brumm will play against Utah or UCSB, and the situation has been described as “day to day” as recently as Thursday.

Utah is not ranked as a team, but Dan Little is ranked No. 54 in singles. Cal is 7-0 against currently unranked teams, and its only loss to a team that was unranked at the time was to Arizona State at the BNP Open Collegiate Tennis Challenge.

Cal is currently in fourth place in the Pac-12, holding a 2-2 record, and Utah is sitting second from the bottom at eighth place with a 1-3 record. Interestingly, both teams lost to USC and UCLA at home with all matches ending 4-2. Utah also lost at unranked Washington but beat currently No. 42 Oregon in Eugene.

The Bears are undefeated against the Utes in the last 20 years, including sweeps of Utah in the last two meetings, 4-0.

If the Bears win this Saturday against the Utes, they will move up to third in the Pac-12 but could be displaced if Washington or Oregon win both of their matches this weekend and improve to 3-1. Stanford is also 2-2 in conference and will be playing Utah the day after Cal plays the Utes. If both Cal and Stanford win, the standings will be decided when the two teams play their next conference match against each other April 13 in Berkeley.

The Bears will return home Monday to play UCSB in their last nonconference match of the season. The Gauchos are also unranked but have the No. 16 ranked singles player in the country in Nicolas Moreno de Alboran.

UCSB has beaten both Oregon and Washington and is currently on a three-match winning streak, which could be extended to four if it beats UC Davis on Sunday. Cal does, however, have history on its side as it has won the two schools’ last meeting in 2017 and has not been defeated by the Gauchos in more than 20 years.

These matches are must-wins if Cal hopes to stay in the rankings, and the Utah match is a must-win for the Bears to retain strong Pac-12 standings. It’s going to be much more challenging to come out of its next conference match against No. 12 Stanford ahead.

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