All things must eventually come to an end.
No. 27 Yuta Kikuchi’s five-year college tennis career at Cal ended Monday when the senior, hailing from Japan, fell to TCU’s No. 21 Jake Fearnley in the NCAA singles championship’s opening round of 64.
“That was my last college match,” Kikuchi said. “It was, of course, a tough match, I hoped I could finish my career with a win, but obviously … it’s tough to play against number one players from everywhere.”
Monday’s competition began with delays. Lots of them. With the tournament being held in Orlando, Florida, the Sunshine State’s notoriously fickle weather threw wrenches into the day’s logistics. Kikuchi’s match was delayed, but eventually was played indoors.
The first set was incredibly close, with Kikuchi fighting through a left-ankle injury to take the first set tiebreak, 7-6(4).
“I’m just proud of him, as a coach, and (of) what he’s been able to accomplish as a tennis player and, more importantly, as a teammate,” said head coach Kris Kwinta. “That shows who he is as a warrior.”
But while the first set was close, the second set did not look good for Kikuchi, with Fearnley quickly firing back with a 6-2 second set win.
In the third set, Kikuchi put up a fight, but eventually fell 6-4, giving Fearnley the win with a 6(4)-7, 6-2, 6-4 final score. Fearnley went on to play Liam Draxl of Kentucky, but lost in three sets.
“At the end of this week, there’s only going to be one winner. Everybody here is the top player from their school. The competition is stiff, and Yuta (Kikuchi) played really good tennis,” Kwinta said. “In the end he wasn’t able to come through, but he had a great season. He learned a lot of new things, who he’s becoming as a man.”
Kikuchi began his career at Cal in 2018 , when he was named Pac-12 Freshman/Newcomer of the Year, the same season that the blue and gold reached the round of 16 at the NCAA team tournament. During his five-year tenure at Cal, Kikuchi had many accomplishments, including winning his first professional singles title.
As a Bear, Kikuchi will fondly remember defeating Stanford for the first time in six years, as well as the comeback victory against USC on Senior Day by his fellow Bear Carl Emil Overbeck.
But while all things must eventually come to an end, endings also mean new beginnings. From an academic perspective, Kikuchi, who graduated last year with a bachelor’s degree in political economy, recently finished his graduate certificate.
As for the tennis side of things, Kikuchi is headed to play professional tennis. And according to him, Kikuchi’s fans should watch out for the day he attains a new goal:
“Obviously my goal is winning (a) Grand Slam, but I want to win some lower-grade professional tournaments,” Kikuchi said. “I’m excited about it.”