Tuesday, September 24

UCLA men’s tennis to pick it up against Baylor after rattling win

Senior Matt Brooklyn stormed back from being down 4-2 in the third set against Duke's Reid Carleton to win the deciding match in Tuesday's 4-3 victory.

Senior Matt Brooklyn stormed back from being down 4-2 in the third set against Duke's Reid Carleton to win the deciding match in Tuesday's 4-3 victory. Evan Luxenberg

Most of the time, it’s all about skill.

But sometimes, it’s about grit.

So Tuesday, when the UCLA men’s tennis team found itself in a 3-0 hole against the visiting Duke Blue Devils, the Bruins knew that it would take more than skill to get them back in the match.

Luckily, No. 8 UCLA was able to find that extra gear and storm back to defeat the No. 33 Blue Devils, 4-3, in what was the Bruins’ most thrilling match of the season.

After being swept in doubles, UCLA seemed to be headed toward its fourth defeat of the season as Duke came out hot in singles, grabbing straight-set victories on court one and court four to take a 3-0 lead.

But the Bruins were able to knot things up at court three thanks to juniors Nick Meister and Amit Inbar and freshman Maxime Tabatruong, all of whom notched straight-set victories. At that point, the fate of the match came down to court two, where UCLA senior Matt Brooklyn came back from 4-2 in the third set to win the deciding match, giving UCLA its seventh win on the season.

“Brooklyn had by far his best match of the year,” coach Billy Martin said Wednesday. “He really came through in the clutch. Being down 4-2 in the third and then fighting back for us was probably the spotlight of the day, and maybe the year so far.”

Tuesday’s match was the first dual meet for UCLA since its thrashing at the hands of No. 3 USC on March 3. Despite the Bruins’ victory, Martin was not too pleased with his team’s performance. But he did acknowledge that his players had the grit to tough out the close win.

“We did not play well. … Especially in doubles, I thought we were flat,” Martin said. “(Haythem) Abid had probably his worst match of the year. … Holden is still just not playing real well, but the other guys just gutted it out.”

Although impressed by the Bruins’ clutch play, Martin sees Tuesday’s match as a sign of just how far UCLA needs to come to be one of the elite teams in the country.

“Personally, I would say (Tuesday) shows us how much more we have to improve and be ready to play each and every day and come out with energy. I think the loss to “˜SC really took the wind out of (the players’) sails. But I think we have to pick ourselves up a little bit from that … and be determined to work hard because anything can happen the next two and a half months.”

As far as the USC loss goes, the second to the Trojans this season, Brooklyn reiterated Martin’s sentiments, commenting that he and the Bruins were a bit down having fallen to their rivals once again.

“It’s tough when we get beaten like that by “˜SC,” Brooklyn said. “The match was a lot closer than 6-1. But it hurts a lot, and coming back is tough. Hopefully (Tuesday’s) match can kick us back into gear.”

After the tough match against Duke, the road doesn’t get any easier for the Bruins, as they welcome the No. 16 Baylor Bears to the Los Angeles Tennis Center this afternoon.

In last year’s match against the Bears, UCLA dropped a narrow 4-3 decision and will be looking to avenge that loss today against a Baylor team that has proven to be notoriously difficult for UCLA in recent years.

“Baylor is always a good team, always a very physical team,” Martin said. “We just got to come out with a lot more energy and a lot hungrier. They just didn’t look tremendously hungry (against Duke).”

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