Cal Beats Gaels 5-2 As Tennis Returns To Hellman
BERKELEY – The California men's tennis team had a strong showing in its first dual match in nine months, defeating visiting Saint Mary's, 5-2, in the 2021 season opener on Monday – Martin Luther King Jr. Day – at the Hellman Tennis Complex. Cal star Yuta Kikuchi clinched the victory with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Fabian Roensdorf at court-two singles. Kikuchi also paired with Kent Hunter to clinch the doubles point for the Golden Bears.
"It was hard to tell who was more excited today, the players or the coaches, as we took the court to play our first match in nine months," said Peter Wright, Cal's Director of Men's Tennis. "We were understandably out of match practice, but nonetheless we had some strong performances in doubles and singles.
"With six seniors, we have so much experience on this team, so they were ready for the nerves that were inevitable after such a long layoff. Saint Mary's is a well-coached team, and we had to fight through some tough situations today. Overall, we're playing the long game, and we're trying to stay safe and build and prepare this talented team for the postseason."
Cal won the doubles point against the Gaels but faced a battle on each court. The senior pair of Ben Draper and Thomas Wright collected the first triumph of the day when Draper's service winner gave the Bears a 6-4 win over Sebastian Grijalva and Fabian Roensdorf, 6-4, on court two. Kikuchi and Hunter then topped Matis Bot and Karlo Divkovic, 6-4, on court three to clinch the doubles point. On court one, the Gaels' duo of Boris Reckow and James Watt upset Cal's 36th-ranked team of seniors Paul Barretto and Can Kaya, 6-4.
In singles, Cal won five of six first sets including at court four, with senior Jacob Brumm eventually beating Grijalva there, 6-0, 6-1, to give the Bears a 2-0 lead over Saint Mary's. Barretto, ranked 63rd in singles, followed with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Watt on court one, and then Kikuchi prevailed on two to give Cal a 4-0, match-clinching win.
Saint Mary's claimed the next two matches – Reckow topped Wright, 7-6(2), 6-2 on six and Bot won 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 over Kaya on five – before Draper ended the contest by beating Divkovic, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, on court three.
The Bears celebrated the win as well as getting to compete again.
"It felt really good actually to play again," Barretto said. "Looking down the courts, you see everyone putting blood, sweat and tears into their matches. And Saint Mary's is a good team, so it was a great feeling."
The match was closed to the public due to local health protocols, and other than the teams, officials and a few Cal staffers, Hellman was empty.
"It was a different feeling for us, but we have our teammates and everyone on the courts bringing their own source of energy," Barretto said. "Every single court is a spark, and we give a little bit of a jump to each court. It's important for us to come out there with smiles on our faces and to be loud and energetic. We're just grateful that we're out there."
The remainder of Cal's schedule will be announced soon.
California 5, Saint Mary's 2
Jan. 18, 2021, in Berkeley, Calif.
Hellman Tennis Complex
1. Boris Reckow/James Watt (SMC) def. No. 36 Paul Barretto/Can Kaya (Cal), 6-4
2. Ben Draper/Thomas Wright (Cal) def. Sebastian Grijalva/Fabian Roensdorf (SMC), 6-4
3. Kent Hunter/Yuta Kikuchi (Cal) def. Matis Bot/Karlo Divkovic (SMC), 6-4*
Order of Finish – 2, 3*, 1
*Clinched the doubles point
1. No. 63 Paul Barretto (Cal) def. James Watt (SMC), 6-1, 6-4
2. No. 42 Yuta Kikuchi (Cal) def. Fabian Roensdorf (SMC), 6-1, 6-4^
3. Ben Draper (Cal) def. Karlo Divkovic (SMC), 6-1, 4-6, 6-3
4. Jacob Brumm (Cal) def. Sebastian Grijalva (SMC), 6-0, 6-1
5. Matis Bot (SMC) def. Can Kaya (Cal), 4-6, 6-3, 6-0
6. Boris Reckow (SMC) def. Thomas Wright (Cal), 7-6(2), 6-2
Order of Finish – 4, 1, 2, 6^, 5, 3
^Clinched the overall match