No. 10 Cal Opens Season vs. No. 18 Pepperdine

Jan. 14, 2003

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WHATS ON TAP: The No. 10 California men's tennis team commences its 2003 campaign this week as the squad travels to Malibu to face No. 18 Pepperdine at 1:30 p.m. at the Ralphs-Straus Tennis Center. The match represents the only scheduled meeting between the two clubs this year. The Waves hold a 25-19 all-time advantage over the Bears.

CLIMBING THE POLLS: In the ITA preseason rankings released on Monday, Jan. 13, the Bears jumped from the No. 13 to the No. 10 ranked team in the nation. Two other Pac-10 teams join Cal in the Top 10 as Stanford checks in at No. 4 and defending NCAA Champion USC at No. 7.

ONE NEW YEAR, THREE NEW PLAYERS: The Bears return to the court on Thursday with three new players on their 13-man roster. Highlighting the newcomers is senior Steve Berke, a transfer from Yale who is the No. 45-ranked player in the nation. At Yale, Berke received numerous accolades, including All-America honors, Ivy League Player of the Year and first team All-Ivy. Or Dekel, a freshman from Haifa, Israel, enters Cal this spring as one of the highest world ranking players in college tennis. Currently ranked No. 350 in the ATP world rankings, Dekel joins the Bears after completing three years of mandatory military service in Israel. Rounding out the list is Kuni Minato, the junior transfer from College of the Desert. Minato was the No. 2 ranked junior college player in California.

IN THE FALL: The fall tournament season was one of great success for the Golden Bears. Junior Balazs Veress advanced to the semifinals of the ITA Northwest Regionals, sophomore Conor Niland advanced to the quarterfinals of the All-American Championships and junior Wayne Wong took the crown at the San Diego All-College Tournament. Overall, the squad finished 44-31 in singles action, with Wong leading the way with a 10-2 record. Senior All-American John Paul Fruttero took the fall off to compete in professional events, but will be returning to the team this spring. The Bears enter the spring slate with a Pac-10 leading four players in the Top 50 ITA rankings (No. 4 Fruttero, No. 43 Veress, No. 45 Berke and No. 49 Niland).

ABOUT PEPPERDINE: Pepperdine opens the season ranked No. 18 in the country by the ITA after finishing 2002 ranked No. 5. The Waves won their first two matches of the season by 5-2 marks, decimating both Cal Poly and Saint Mary's. In 2002, the team finished with a 25-6 overall record en route to its 12th consecutive WCC title. Losing six letterwinners from the a 2002 squad that advanced to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Championships, the Waves return two juniors, Diego Acuna and Calle Hansen. Acuna finished 2002 with a 21-7 overall record while Hansen compiled a 24-16 mark. Four freshman newcomers round out the roster. The last time that Cal and Pepperdine locked horns was on April 15, 2002, with the Bears taking an easy 6-1 win over the Waves in Berkeley.

LOOKING BACK TO 2002: 2002 was a season of historical note for the Cal men's tennis squad. First came the dramatic 4-3 comeback win against the arch-rival Stanford Cardinal, then ranked No. 1 in the nation. The win ended a 21-match losing streak to the team from the farm, and kicked off a 10-match winning streak - the third longest in school history The 2002 team became the first squad ever to defeat Stanford, UCLA and USC in the same season. Cal's 2002 netters rank as the school's best all-time squad since joining the Pac-10, as the Bears finished with a 5-2 conference record and a second-place tie - Cal's best ever finish in the competitive league.

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