Bears Look to Scorch Arizona in the Desert Heat, Altitude

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Today at 1:30 p.m., the No. 6 Cal men's tennis team takes on Arizona at the LaNelle Robson Tennis Center in Tucson, Ariz., and things are bound to get a little heated.

With the temperature predicted at 95 degrees, conditions on the court could climb as high as 105 degrees. And while the Bears (9-5, 1-1 Pac-10) have been taking advantage of the mild Berkeley sunshine during practice all week, they aren't used to contending with dry Tucson heat.

Junior Tommie Murphy said that high altitudes also mean the ball will travel faster, while winds will make it harder to control the ball.

In fact, coach Peter Wright pointed to conditions in Arizona as the biggest challenge awaiting Cal this weekend, rather than the actual opponents.

"As far as heat and fitness go, this is one of the toughest trips in college tennis," Wright said. "The weather's going to be a test of fitness. If someone is fatigued, everyone else has to carry him. We don't want to have to carry each other. We want to lift each other up on our shoulders."

The Bears have been focusing on points play in practice this week, which according to Murphy, points play, unlike simply rallying, enables the team to simulate specific scenarios so as to better prepare for actual contests.

Cal heads into this weekend after splitting results from its Pac-10 opener in Southern California. The Bears edged No. 15 UCLA, 4-3, last Friday but fell to No. 2 USC, 4-1, the next day.

"Obviously we're disappointed about losing to USC," Wright said. "But overall it just reflects the quality of our team. USC is one of the best teams in the country, and we're getting closer to closing that gap."

Arizona (8-9, 0-2 Pac-10) returns home riding a four-match losing streak.

The last time the Bears and Wildcats met was a year ago, when Cal routed Arizona, 6-1, at home. The Bears have defeated the Wildcats in every contest since 2005.

Andres Carrasco was the only Arizona player to win a match that day with his defeat of Jonathan Dahan in three sets. Carrasco has split his time this season between the first and second courts and is 6-4 in the dual season.

This year's matchup occurs in the midst of what Wright calls the "final stretch." Four of Cal's final five matches of the regular season are against conference foes, and four of those matches will be played within the next eight days. The sudden switch to a Pac-10-heavy calendar has the team looking more than ever toward the NCAA Championships at the end of May.

But in order to reach that point, the team must first survive its desert battle. Hopefully for the Bears, everyone packed plenty of sunscreen.


Annie Gerlach covers men's tennis. Contact her at [email protected]

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