After three UCLA men’s tennis players rallied to win in three sets on Friday against Brigham Young, sophomore Maxime Tabatruong had one message: “We’re ready to go.”
After burying BYU 7-0 in their home opener, the No. 6 Bruins surge on to face the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos today at the Los Angeles Tennis Center.
“Everybody is fighting really hard,” Tabatruong said. “We have a lot of confidence in our game now.”
The Bruins (1-0) take on the No. 61 Gauchos (0-1) for the first time in nearly three years today. UCLA overpowered UCSB 6-1 the last time these two teams met in 2008.
UCSB opened its season with a disheartening 7-0 loss to No. 21 Pepperdine on Saturday, but UCLA isn’t overconfident.
“We can’t take them lightly,” coach Billy Martin said of UCSB after Friday’s victory.
“I know quite a few of their guys that I have a lot of respect for. I’m expecting a tough match.”
One such player is sophomore Benjamin Recknagel, who posted an outstanding freshman season for the Gauchos. The German-born Recknagel led UCSB last year with a 6-0 singles record and a 17-6 doubles record and was named First Team All Big-West for singles.
“I was very impressed by him. … He’s a very physical player, just grinding it away in the back court,” Martin said of Recknagel.
Another Gaucho for the Bruins to watch out for is senior Alex Konigsfeldt.
Konigsfeldt, a Denmark native, posted strong wins in Big West Tournament matches and his performance in 2009 helped the Gauchos to a Big West Conference championship.
Back on the Bruins’ side of the court, UCLA senior Holden Seguso can match Konigsfeldt’s game. Seguso routed Konigsfeldt 8-4 when the two faced off in doubles play in 2008. Seguso also dominated in singles play against the Gauchos.
But Seguso is not the same player he was in 2008. After not competing in fall 2010, he returns to UCLA this quarter “not in the greatest of shape, and he’d be the first to admit it,” according to Martin.
“We just need him to get into top physical shape, and he’ll be able to help us as much as anybody to win a national championship,” Martin added.
The Bruins must also rely on veteran Amit Inbar to lead his team to a win today.
“We have a tough match against Santa Barbara,” Inbar said after Friday’s sweep.
“We got confidence with this first win so we’re looking forward to it.”
It is clear the Bruins’ dominant success against BYU gave the team some much-needed confidence. Whether UCLA can convert this confidence into a commanding performance today remains uncertain.
“We’re not going to have a shutout like that every time,” Inbar said.
Regardless of their opponent’s record, the Bruins know they need to approach every match with the same intensity.
“We’re motivated no matter who we are going to play,” Tabatruong said. “We’re going to go out on the court and fight for every set.”