BERKELEY “”mdash; Although it is far from taking home any trophies or titles, the No. 11 UCLA men’s tennis team’s two wins this past weekend mark a high point of its season so far. 

After upsetting fourth-ranked Stanford, 4-3, in Palo Alto on Friday, the Bruins crossed the Bay to cap off their fifth win in as many matches with a 5-2 victory over No. 43 California at the Bears’ Hellman Tennis Center.

Coming out of its finals-week break from team practice, UCLA also clobbered unranked UC Irvine last Tuesday, before traveling to Northern California to win a tough pair of matches that may decide the fate of the Bruins’ Pac-10 season.

Coach Billy Martin was pleased with his team’s ability to stay focused despite following up their academic break with such an important road trip.
“They did a better job than a lot of (Bruin) teams in the past as far as getting out there during finals on their own,” he said. “We talk about having to pay the price, and it’s not easy while they’re studying. So, when we did start practicing on that Saturday (after finals), they weren’t so rusty.”

This weekend’s matches were the first to count toward their Pac-10 record. The wins give the Bruins (15-3, 2-0 Pac-10) a head start to their sixth-straight conference crown as the Cardinal and USC are considered the two other teams competing for that distinction.

UCLA had already lost a match to Stanford in February that came down to the wire with Bruin sophomore Holden Seguso losing a third-set tiebreaker to the Cardinal’s senior Matt Bruch at the No. 4 spot. This time around it was UCLA that emerged victorious, clinching on sophomore Amit Inbar’s straight-set Court No. 6 triumph.

“It was just what we needed,” Martin said. “We needed to win that tight match. We’ve lost three 4-3′s in a row, so I think (being) on the road, with a little bit of revenge, that was a good shot in the arm.”

The next day, the Bruins notched the school’s ninth-straight win against the Bears, dating back to 2005.

“I’m proud of the guys to come back today and be a little tired and on the road again, but they bore down and got this win for us,” Martin said.
After clinching the doubles point with wins on Court No. 2 and 3, UCLA’s duo of senior Haythem Abid and sophomore Nick Meister scraped out a 9-8 tiebreak win in a battle with Cal’s No. 9-ranked doubles team of senior Geoff Chizever and sophomore Pedro Zerbini. The Bruins would go on to get the team victory with the help of quick match defeats from their trio of sophomores Holden Seguso, Amit Inbar, and Meister in singles.

The Bruins will now return home for three straight matches against the Pac-10′s non-California contingent, Oregon, Washington and Arizona. As this road trip contained UCLA’s only conference road games, Martin added he was glad to see his team perform well away from Westwood.
“I think it’s always easier to do it at home with your fans. I like to see what kind of character my team has and I guess I was pretty darn impressed. But I can’t say I’m that surprised; we’ve got a pretty mature group.

“I think we’re getting better, which is the most encouraging thing for me.”

SEGUSO WINS AT THE TWO: For the first time this season, Martin placed Seguso at the No. 2 singles spot this week, moving junior Matt Brooklyn down to the No. 4. Despite dropping a 7-6(2), 6-1 decision to Stanford’s No. 57 Bradley Klahn on Friday, Seguso has won his other two matches at the position, including an influential early victory in Saturday’s match at Cal.

“I’m excited; it’s a big difference playing two than four,” Seguso said. “Every match is a tough one. … It’s definitely giving me a chance to play better players and improve my game.”

The sophomore from Bradenton, Fla., has not been in his best physical shape since returning from injury earlier in the season but is optimistic he can get himself there when the Bruins will need him most.

“So far, I’m doing okay,” he said. “When I get back home, I’m going to start training. My conditioning is improving. It’s not where I want it to be, not even close, but I’m working at it everyday and hopefully by NCAA’s I’ll be where I want to be.”

To help maintain his match success, Martin has still yet to move Seguso into the doubles line-up but continues to see improvement in his singles game nonetheless.

“He’s been playing better; he’s been working harder and in better shape,” Martin said. “We certainly know what he’s capable of from last year. We just wanted to make the move and see how it goes, give him a little confidence to play and see how he does.”