What do politics, the economy and law have in common?
They’re all fields of study chosen by members of the 2019 Cal men’s tennis team, of course. In fact, of the players whose majors are listed online — every one of them falls into those categories.
Maybe there’s something to be said about the nature of tennis — maybe those who are inclined to think about the world in terms of strategy, control and quick analysis are better on the court. Or perhaps it means nothing at all. Nevertheless, as the academic year kicks off, Cal men’s tennis is gearing up for success in the new season. The team played its first matches of the fall last week, at two different Bay Area competitions.
The highlight of the weekend was sophomore Yuta Kikuchi’s title at the Audi Napa Valley Tennis Classic, with a 2-1 record in singles and three wins in Sunday’s Solinco Wild Card Shootout. The sophomore, named the 2018 Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year, secured a wild card entry to a future United States Tennis Association, or USTA, pro circuit tournament.
Kikuchi wasn’t the only Cal player to come home with a win: senior Bjorn Hoffman, one of the team’s three seniors, went undefeated in singles. Hoffman was eliminated by USTA juniors’ Stefan Leustian (10-5) in the quarterfinals, but received the Norma Miner Outstanding Player Award, given annually to the player who shows excellence in play and sportsmanship at the event.
90 miles south of Napa, a few other Bears were competing for a prize pool of $120,000 in the Kunal Patel San Francisco Championships. Sophomore Kent Hunter, the only new member of the 2019 roster, earned the highest placement of any collegiate player in the event’s main draw. Alongside him were juniors Jack Molloy and Jacob Brumm, as well as senior Mert Zincirli. The four Cal tennis players all placed in the top 16 at the tournament. Molloy made it to the playoffs before being knocked out by his own teammate, Hunter (6-1, 6-3).
Coming off of a great first weekend, the Bears will be making their way to the Milwaukee Tennis Classic, or MTC, where juniors Paul Barretto and Can Kaya will represent Cal in Wisconsin for the second time. As the 2018 doubles champions of the tournament, the pair was the first to win the title for Cal men’s tennis in the MTC’s 43 years.
Cal’s history at the MTC goes back much further than 2018 — Peter Wright, Cal’s current director of men’s tennis, won the MTC Sportsmanship Award as a Cal player in 1986. Barretto and Kaya will continue building upon that history starting Thursday. The two juniors were recently ranked 58th in doubles in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, and the tournament will be their first chance to prove themselves as a top pairing this year.
A few other Cal players made the preseason list. In singles, Kikuchi is ranked 75th, Molloy is 83rd and Barretto is 121st. In doubles, Kikuchi and Brumm are ranked 16th. With no freshmen among its ranks, the 2019 roster is relatively experienced — which might bode well for its future successes.
Coming up this week, Cal will be playing in the 11th annual Battle in the Bay Classic. In the 2018 Battle in the Bay, not a single Cal player made it through the second day of the tournament — and both doubles pairings were knocked out on the first day. One year later, the Bears will be looking to raise that bar.
Later this month, Cal will be traveling to the Aggie Invitational at UC Davis. The tournament’s 2018 doubles title belongs to seniors Dominic Barretto and Mert Zincirli.