Saturday, September 14

UCLA men’s tennis seeks tough road wins against Stanford, California

The last time the No. 7 UCLA men’s tennis team packed its bags, the players acted like amateur vacationers.

The team’s travel arrangements to the National Indoor Tournament in Charlottesville, Va., two weeks ago didn’t go as harmoniously as planned. Coach Billy Martin said they had showed up underprepared. In the end, it was as if their winning ways got lost at baggage claim.

The tournament produced UCLA’s (7-2) only two losses of the young season, including a trouncing by rival USC in which the Bruins managed to win just two of the 13 completed sets in the match.

Going into this weekend, however, the team believes it is in better shape, although the Bruins’ road schedule is still about as treacherous as a mountain climber’s.

This afternoon, UCLA will face No. 14 Stanford in Palo Alto and then cross the San Francisco Bay for a matchup with No. 15 California on Saturday. Despite playing Pac-10 opponents, this weekend’s matches will not count toward the Bruins’ conference record but will surely play into the national rankings.

Redshirt senior Haythem Abid, who plays on the Bruins’ No. 1 court for both singles and doubles, said the road trip will be a good measure of his team’s improvement.

“It’s going to be a good test, especially after (our performance at) Indoors,” Abid said.

The traditional Bay Area powerhouse, the Cardinal (7-2), returns former Pac-10 Athlete of the Year junior Alex Clayton and last year’s conference Freshman of the Year, sophomore Bradley Klahn. On Saturday, though, the Golden Bears bested their rivals on their home court in a shocking 4-3 upset.

“I’ve got to say I was a little surprised with that,” Martin said.

Abid drew a parallel between his team and the Cardinal, noting that both squads usually spend much of the year in the upper echelon of the national rankings but are already trying to fight off the memories of early losses.

“Stanford is having a tough time, too, but they’re a top five team for me,” Abid said.

Playing in Palo Alto also adds another flavor to these match plays not normally seen this early in the season: a rowdy fan base.

“It’s never very friendly with the frat brothers and all that,” Martin said.

But the Bruins have handled it well in the past, pulling off a thrilling 4-3 win at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium last season on the back of a three-set victory by then-sophomore Amit Inbar.

Less than 24 hours later in Berkeley, UCLA won’t have much time to rest as California (7-1) will be rolling off last week’s huge rivalry win.

The Golden Bears’ freshman Christoffer Konigsfeldt helped to clinch that match in a come-from-behind three-setter on the No. 2 court. UCLA junior Holden Seguso plays on the Bruins’ side No. 2 court.

“I’m actually more excited to play Cal (than Stanford) because the guy I play on Cal I guess is on a winning streak,” Seguso said.

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