Rich get richer: Early victories set pace for Cal men’s tennis in Tulsa

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Economics and tennis don’t usually come up in the same sentence. When discussing forehands and backhands, it is rare to hear the words “asset turnover ratio,” “inflation” or “labor market” mentioned.

If you ask the unconventional Cal men’s tennis team about its expectations for this season, however, the Bears might put it into economic terms.

“We look at this as a mutual fund. Each player has a stock in that mutual fund, so we like to see each stock getting stronger and playing better, and that helps the entire fund. We focus all of our energy on how we do as a team in the spring, so that is what this all leads to,” said director of men’s tennis Peter Wright.

At the first weekend of the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, the Bears’ “stocks” did help the “mutual fund.” Impressive victories set the tone early for Cal and paved the way for it to make a deep run in the main rounds that begin Wednesday.

Off to a hot start for the Bears so far this season is sophomore Kent Hunter. A transfer from Cerritos College, Hunter has added to his already-impressive resume. Prior to coming up north to Berkeley, Hunter was named ITA JUCO Rookie of the Year in Region I and took home titles as an ITA JUCO All-American in both singles and doubles.

Labeled an All-American by the ITA, it makes sense that Hunter has taken the reigns at the ITA All-American Championships. Starting among 256 in Men’s Singles: Pre-Qualifying, Hunter has bested the likes of individuals from Chattanooga, Virginia Tech, Rice and the University of Tennessee. To join fellow sophomore Yuta Kikuchi in the main draw, he will still need to grind out two more victories. Thus far, however, one could say that Hunter’s stock has been rising, and that means business is booming.

Hunter was not the only source of wealth for Cal in the singles competition. Can Kaya won his first three matches, including an upset over Liberty’s Josh Wilson, the fourth seed in the prequalifying round. Kaya’s run would end with a loss at the hands of USC’s Ryder Jackson, dashing his hopes of reaching the main draw.

Paul Barretto and Bjorn Hoffmann secured victories to stay alive in Tuesday’s contests alongside Hunter. With Kikuchi already waiting for his number to be called upon Wednesday, there is a potential for four Bears to participate in the main draw. With seven players participating in the bracket, having four reach the singles main draw is exactly what Wright hopes to see.

“Our guys are playing well and that this is one of the college tennis grand slams, so you have some of the top players in the country here. It is a great testing ground early in the season to see where we are, and so far we are holding our own with everybody in these matches. There is still more tennis to be played,” Wright said.

Some of the tennis yet to be played lies in the doubles competition. Although a tandem from archrival Stanford took down Barretto and Kaya, the Bears will pin their hopes on Kikuchi and Jacob Brumm, who will participate in the main draw Wednesday.

Cal is confident in the foundation it has built and what it could mean going forward into the main competitions at the tournament. “We are one of the top teams in the country, and we have to prove that every day out,” Wright said.

As the All-American tournament picks up, the Bears will be looking for their stocks to keep rising, hoping that the rich continue to get richer.

Kabir Rao covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].