Cal loses narrowly in Big Slam

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For Carlos Cueto of the No. 14 Cal men's tennis team, Saturday's match against No. 8 Stanford was nothing if not a series of close calls.

Despite breaking away in the first set's 8-6 tiebreaker, the Bears' sophomore lost the second set. At that point, the final outcome of the day rested on the ensuing match tiebreaker.

After a close trade-off, Cueto gained two consecutive points and walked away the victor with an overall score of 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 1-0(9) against Ryan Thacher.

Cueto may have won a hard-fought battle, but in the end it came too late; the Cardinal had already clinched the last dual match of the season and came off with a 4-3 triumph over the Bears at Taube Family Tennis Center in Stanford, Calif.

Coming on the heels of a narrow 4-3 defeat to No. 22 Washington on April 9, Saturday's defeat handed Cal (12-7, 3-3 in the Pac-10) its first two-match losing streak. Meanwhile, Stanford increased its winning streak to 10 straight contests.

The first results of the Big Slam didn't bode well for the Bears as the Cardinal (18-5, 5-1) swept all three doubles courts.

First to fall were sophomore Riki McLachlan and his freshman brother Ben - an 8-5 defeat at the hands of Alex Clayton and Jamin Ball on court No. 3. Shortly afterward, Stanford's No. 3 tandem of Bradley Klahn and Thacher defeated Cal's No. 23 duo of junior Nick Andrews and sophomore Christoffer Konigsfeldt in a swift 8-3 contest on the top court.

With the doubles point wrapped up, the Card still took the final match, as Matt Kandath and Denis Lin topped Jonathan Dahan and captain Pedro Zerbini in a 5-4(5) tiebreaker decision.

Already up 1-0 overall, Stanford notched another point when ninth-ranked Klahn routed No. 20 Zerbini.

In the past three matchups between the two cross-bay rivals, Zerbini has made a habit of dismantling Stanford's top player, regardless of the differences in the two opponents' rankings. But this time Klahn broke the pattern with his easy 6-1, 6-2 domination on the top court.

On the other side, senior Bozhidar Katsarov gained Cal's first point of the day in a 6-3, 6-3, win over Jamin Ball on court No. 6.

But Katsarov's win was similar to Cueto's in that it couldn't turn the tide in the Bears' favor. The Card took the next two matches to secure the day's victory. Andrews fell 6-1, 6-3 to Clayton on the third court, while Ben McLachlan dropped a 7-5, 6-4 decision to Kandath on the fifth.

Earlier in the week, Cal coach Peter Wright said that the team was using this bout as preparation for May's NCAA Championships. While the results were not favorable, the competition still provided the Bears with crucial feedback for how to fine-tune lineups and techniques.

The Bears also have another shot at preparation when the players compete individually in the Pac-10 Championships in Ojai, Calif., next weekend.

Tags: CAL MEN'S TENNIS, PETER WRIGHT, PEDRO ZERBINI, CHRISTOFFER KONIGSFELDT


Annie Gerlach covers men's tennis.



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