Monday, February 27

Men’s tennis wins seventh consecutive match

The UCLA men’s tennis team was missing some of its key ingredients this weekend but still managed to produce victories in a fashion that would have been indistinguishable from any team with a full roster.

Despite the absence of regular starters redshirt junior Haythem Abid and junior Matt Brooklyn, No. 9 UCLA won 17 of its 18 individual matches over two days as it clobbered Oregon, 7-0, on Friday and posted a 6-1 victory over No. 21 Washington on Saturday. The wins push the Bruins (14-4, 4-0 Pac-10) to their longest winning streak of the season so far, with just three matches remaining in the regular season.

“(This is) definitely the best we’ve played all season,” senior Michael Look said. “I think at the start, we were a bit scratchy. … I just really feel the team clicking now, and I think that’s why we’ve put seven matches in a row together now.”

With two of the Bruins’ top players off the court, the Huskies were looking at a potential upset but soon found themselves staring at a vast deficit. After sweeping the doubles matches, UCLA clinched the team victory with straight-set wins from Look and sophomores Nick Meister and Amit Inbar.

Coach Billy Martin was glad to turn what could have been a tough weekend into a prime opportunity to show off the squad’s depth.

“It really gave our younger guys a little bit of play in a tough Pac-10 match, got them a little confidence,” he said. “I told them, “˜I think our back’s up against the wall just a little bit here,’ especially (Saturday) against (Washington), which I think is a pretty darn good team, but I was really proud of our character and determination to come out even with a couple of our top guys not here.”

That younger generation included freshman Eugen Brazdil, who got his first singles win of the season, a 6-2, 6-1 romp at the No. 6 spot against Oregon freshman Sho Higuchi.

Sophomore Ahmed Ismail, the Bruins’ usual alternate, also saw action in both weekend matches.

“Sometimes when the No. 6 guy always plays, he’s used to playing, so he doesn’t bring all the energy as someone who sits outside really, really anxious to come and play,” senior Harel Srugo said. “I think that works for us with Ahmed and Eugen who came and played (this weekend).”

The lineup shift meant the Bruins’ No. 1 position was occupied by sophomore Holden Seguso, who played the most exciting match of the weekend, albeit not the most influential. After UCLA had already clinched the victory against Washington, Seguso’s battle with Huskies’ senior Patrik Fischer went down to a third-set tiebreaker. After trailing 5-2 in the final set, Seguso clawed back to force the extra period, where he eked out the 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (11-9) win.

Seguso played both doubles and singles this weekend for the first time in more than a month. His play had been limited because of questions about his physical shape. But winning all four matches after assuming the team’s top spot, including Saturday’s marathon on the singles court, has his coach pleased.

“Holden is really starting to come along,” Martin said. “I’m really happy with what I see there. He had plenty of energy (against Washington) and so that’s showing all of us that his conditioning is really coming along. He’s a lot more focused. He’s feeling good about himself and his tennis game.”

After sitting out the team’s singles matches for more than a month because of a left-hand injury, Srugo, one of the team’s two senior captains, also returned to a full slate this weekend.

Srugo won both of his singles’ matches in three sets.

MISSING PLAYERS UPDATE: Abid, who has consistently played as UCLA’s No. 1, was back in his native Tunisia this week, competing for his home country in the Davis Cup, the annual international team tennis tournament. Abid has already returned and is scheduled to play with the Bruins in their upcoming match with Arizona.

Also, Brooklyn sat out this weekend’s action for academic reasons. Brooklyn, who transferred this year from Arizona State, had played much of the season at the No. 2 spot until recently being pushed down to the No. 4 spot.

“Right now, he’s not eligible to play, but we’re hoping that could change daily if we get a grade in or not,” Martin said. “But the way the NCAA rules are, he’s got to sit until he’s clear with all of his grades.”

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