Injuries test men’s tennis

Each year, it seems to be the same old story for the Bruins.

Last year, it was senior leader Harel Srugo who was sidelined with a wrist injury. Joining Srugo in the battle against injuries were then-junior Haythem Abid and then-sophomore Holden Seguso. And this year, Abid and Seguso once again find themselves struggling to fight off the injury bug and get back on the court for the No. 10 UCLA men’s tennis team.

But what’s the second part of that same old story for coach Billy Martin’s squad?

The emergence of unsung heroes, which UCLA will hope to see more of this afternoon when they take on a gritty Pepperdine squad at the Los Angeles Tennis Center at 2 p.m.

As of late, that role has been played by junior Nick Meister, who has filled in as the Bruins’ No. 1 player, a role usually occupied by the injured Abid. Since Abid’s exit from the singles lineup, Meister has gone 5-1 for the Bruins at the top of the lineup, his only loss coming to Stanford’s Bradley Klahn, the No. 5 singles player in the country.

Highlighting Meister’s recent success was a 6-1, 6-0 drubbing of Cal’s Pedro Zerbini on Friday, the No. 16 singles player in the nation.

“That match against Stanford was his first loss,” Martin said before Tuesday’s practice. “He had gone 5-0 at (No. 1) for us. So he’s really stepped up, and in doubles, too. He and Amit (Inbar) have really been doing a great job at No. 1 doubles. Nick’s always been a great doubles player.”

In addition, prior to the win over Zerbini, Meister had downed three consecutive top-100 opponents in the Bruins’ previous three matches, all wins for UCLA. And with doubles partner Amit Inbar, the duo has risen to the No. 41 team in the nation, and are currently riding a six-match win streak, highlighted by an 8-4 upset of the nation’s No. 1 doubles team, Stanford’s Klahn and Ryan Thacher.

But according to Martin, in addition to Meister’s recent success, the entire UCLA squad has stepped up in the absence of Abid and Seguso, whom Martin hopes to see back on the court today against Pepperdine.

“I’m just hoping we’ll be able to get Holden (Seguso) and (Haythem) Abid going tomorrow,” Martin said. “They (were) both hitting (Tuesday) so we’ll see.”

The Bruins and Waves certainly aren’t strangers, having faced off once already in the early portion of the season. UCLA dominated Pepperdine, handily defeating the Waves, 4-0. But Martin is not expecting to see the same Waves team that he saw on Jan. 31.

“I think, just by looking at the results, they’ve gotten a lot better from when we played them in January,” Martin said. “It’s going to be a hard-fought match. I know their coach really well … and his teams are always really spirited, so I’m not expecting any easy walk through the park.”

Another issue on Martin’s mind: How will his Bruins bounce back from a tough loss against the Cardinal?

“It’s hard to say,” Martin said. “We’ll see what type of heart they have. Are they going to mope or are they going to come out pissed off and determined and take it out on the Waves?”

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