Cal Upsets No.1 Stanford For First Time Since 1991

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The No. 17 Cal men's tennis team piled into the giant wooden horse on Saturday.

The Bears rolled into Palo Alto and performed a Troy-like siege of a previously impregnable fortress, defeating No. 1 Stanford, 4-3.

The Cardinal had won 75 straight matches at home dating back to 1996. In addition, they had beaten Cal 21 straight consecutive times, ranging back to 1991.

It's no wonder the Bears were so graciously waved into Taube Tennis Center. They looked like a gift, an easy win, No. 22 in the streak of victories by the Card.

The Bears instead stormed out of the mock gift, taking down the Card, winning four of the six singles matches, including all of the three-set matches.

"No one beats Cal 22 times in a row," said Cal coach Peter Wright.

Indeed, the Bears were determined to win all day long.

After dropping the first two matches in doubles to give the point to Stanford, John Paul Fruttero and Robert Kowalczyk came back to win the third doubles match in what Wright called an "inspiring" match, defeating the No. 9 doubles team in the nation, Ryan Haviland and K.J. Hippensteel, 8-6.

At the onset of the the singles matches, Cal struggled, as Conor Niland and Balazs Veress both lost their matches in straight sets, making the score 3-0 in favor of Stanford.

Pitted against the best team in the country, on the Card's home court and only a match away from defeat, the Bears showed signs of what Wright has said they've been capable of all year.

Mik Ledvonova began the comeback, defeating Phil Sheng in straight sets on the No. 6 court, 7-5, 6-0, making the tally 3-1 still in favor of Stanford.

Then the attention turned to Fruttero, No. 125 in the country, who was in the middle of his match against No.1 ranked Hippensteel. Tied at a set apiece, Fruttero won the final set in a display of smart tennis, inching Cal to 3-2.

At the close of Fruttero's match, Wong, on the No. 3 court, was serving for the match. Against No. 16 David Martin, Wong won 7-6, 3-6, 6-3, under much duress from the crowd.

In an outstanding display of emotion, a fist shake from normally quiet Wong, Cal had evened the match at 3-3.

"We always seem to come a little closer to beating them each year," Veress said. "We always get the feeling we're not that far from winning."

In the final match of the long and emotional day, it stopped being a feeling and became a reality.

Kowalczyk, playing against Sam Warburg, tied in sets, losing the first set 4-6, and coming back to win the second set, 6-3.

In the final set of the match, Kowalczyk was leading, 5-3 and at match point. He then lost the next three games, putting him down 5-6. Kowalczyk managed to regroup and win the next game, tying the match at 6-6 before winning 7-6.

"Robert showed tremendous composure," Wright said. "In the tiebreak, he played aggressive, smart tennis."

According to Wright, the Bears' win comes with a need for a heightened focus and awareness.

"We go from being hunters, to maybe being a little bit hunted," Wright said. "Everyone comes after you now."

The Bears' next test will be Tuesday against Utah at the Hellman Tennis Center at 1:30 p.m.

"Now we have to focus even more," Veress said. "We can't just play well once a month."


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