No. 43 Cal wins Pac-12 opener against No. 22 Utah in 2-win weekend, prepares for Purdue

Photo of Cal Men's Tennis Player hitting the ball
Nora Povejsil/Senior Staff

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As the college men’s tennis season kicked into high gear, No. 43 Cal had a successful weekend at home, defeating Santa Clara 5-2 on Friday and No. 22 Utah 5-2 on Sunday in the first official Pac-12 match of the season.

Cal players went an impressive 10-2 in singles competition over the weekend but struggled in doubles, going 2-4. Cal head coach Kris Kwinta decided to switch up the doubles lineup for Friday’s match against Santa Clara in an effort to see how different players meshed together.

Among other changes, Kwinta decided to pair senior Yuta Kikuchi with freshman Derrick Chen rather than his normal doubles partner, freshman Carl Emil Overbeck. Kikuchi and Chen fell to Santa Clara junior Mann Shah and senior Arthur Neuhaus 6-2. Cal lost the doubles point as freshmen Alex Chang and Overbeck fell to Bronco juniors James Bell and Nick Cmager in a tough 7-5 match.

For Cal’s match against Utah, Kwinta reverted to the original doubles lineup, but once again failed to win the doubles point. Cal lost the doubles point again after the No. 17 pair of Kikuchi and Overbeck suffered their second consecutive loss of the season — and first loss of the season in dual competition — to Utah sophomores Franco Capablo and Geronimo Espin Busleiman 7-5.

Cal went 5-1 in singles competition in each of its matches this weekend.

Every singles match against Santa Clara finished in two sets. Cal’s underclassmen were particularly impressive, going 3-0 against Santa Clara with wins from Overbeck, Chen and sophomore Lucas Magnaudet. No. 91 Kikuchi — yes, he’s finally ranked — defeated Neuhaus 6-4, 6-1, while graduate transfer Sean Hill defeated Shah 6-3, 6-3. Cal’s only singles loss came in Philip Hjorth’s tough match against Guillaume Dalmasso, 7-6(0), 7-6(5).

Against Utah, Cal performed much better than expected in singles and once again the underclassmen exceeded expectations. Overbeck defeated Utes junior Bruno Caula on court four in straight sets 6-0, 7-5, while on court five Chen defeated Utes junior Mathias Gavelin 7-6(5), 6-2.

Hill lost his match to No. 118 Busleiman on court three, 6-7 (6), 0-6. Hill played extremely well in the first set — despite losing it — as he forced his way into long rallies with his unique change-of-pace style of play. However, the second set was all Busleiman as Hill could not find a rhythm.

Hjorth then defeated Utah junior Francisco Bastias in an intense 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 match. Hjorth struggled for a bit in the second set, falling behind 3-5 before his attempted comeback. Hjorth then played his most aggressive in the third set, blitzing Bastias with killer approach shots and powerful overhead smashes.

After losing the first set in an unlucky fashion, No. 91 Kikuchi defeated Capablo 4-6, 7-5, 6-1, clinching the win for the Bears over the previously undefeated Utes. Magnaudet would defeat Utah sophomore Bruno Krenn 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 about fifteen seconds later to close out the match.

In case you were wondering, Kikuchi was indeed affected by the “Let’s go Utes!” chants from his opponents.

“It sometimes distracts me and sometimes it makes me more happy,” Kikuchi said. “It’s so funny to me when everybody says ‘Yute!’ and I don’t know who says that.”

With that pair of wins, Cal moves to 7-3 on the season, including 1-0 in the Pac-12.

“We knew that Utah is No. 22 in the nation for a reason,” Kwinta said. “They definitely were favored in this match. But the home courts helped — and the incredible crowd — and the guys came out ready for sure.”

Cal will look to carry on that momentum as they take on unranked Purdue (7-6) on Wednesday evening at the Hellman Tennis Center in Berkeley. The Boilermakers are also on a roll as they have won four straight, but they are also winless in away matches.

Abhi Erra covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].