Yuta Kikuchi Wins Norman Open Singles Title
NORMAN, Okla. – Cal men's tennis veteran Yuta Kikuchi captured the first professional title of his career when he defeated Oklahoma's Alex Martinez in Sunday's singles final at the Norman Open, part of the USTA Pro Circuit.
The seventh-seeded Kikuchi, a graduate student for the Golden Bears, beat Martinez, the sixth seed, 7-5, 6-4. In the ITA preseason college rankings, Kikuchi is ranked 62nd, while Martinez is ranked 101st.
"It was amazing," Kikuchi said. "There was a good atmosphere especially for the final. It was very emotional actually when I won the tournament. I've made semifinals a couple of times but never won a pro tournament. This is a lower-level tournament, but everyone starts from here. Winning this tournament means a lot for my future success as well."
The Japan native has had a strong fall that includes an appearance in the KPSF Open singles final on Oct. 16 in San Francisco in his last tournament. The Cal star has worked on his serve of late and improved it, which has led to some of his success.
"We always talk about if I have a big serve, and I had it this tournament," he said. "I developed it. I was missing something in my game, and when I got it, I can be competitive with anybody."
Kikuchi also teamed with first-year Bear Siddhant Banthia in doubles at the Norman Open, reaching the semifinals. Banthia, a graduate transfer from Wake Forest, competed in singles, advancing from qualifying to the main draw before falling in the second round.
"He brings a lot to the team," Kikuchi said of Banthia. "He's very good in doubles. He knows a lot of tactics he learned from his other school, which is good for us. He's a good addition for us."
Kikuchi and Banthia next play in a 15K tournament from Tuesday, Oct. 31, to Sunday, Nov. 6, in Ithaca, New York.