For the first time this year, there were questions as to whether the UCLA men’s tennis team would be able to pull out a victory.
At this weekend’s USTA/ITA Indoor Qualifying event at the Los Angeles Tennis Center, the Bruins easily defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers 4-0 in the first round on Friday before being pushed to the brink of defeat by the Florida State Seminoles on Saturday. The Bruins knew they would be challenged going into the Saturday match, and they were, making the 4-1 victory even more meaningful.
UCLA was led by key victories in the doubles point at the No. 2 and 3 positions. Redshirt sophomore Alex Brigham and senior Holden Seguso helped put the Bruins on the board with a hard-fought 8-6 win, and the freshman duo of Clay Thompson and Daniel Kosakowski gutted out a back-and-forth battle by a score of 8-6 to secure a tight doubles point against the tenacious Seminoles.
“We just kept grinding out there,” Kosakowski said. “We knew we would get our chance to break back, and we had to take it at the right moment.”
It became clear from the intensity shown during the doubles point that this was no regular contest. The chance to qualify for one of the best tournaments of the year and join the 16-team field at the USTA/ITA National Indoors added to the drama.
With the dramatic conclusion of the doubles point, the match turned to singles. The Bruins were led once again by a dominant performance by Kosakowski, with a 6-4, 6-0 victory. His performance was even more impressive given the quality opponent on the other side of the net, senior and No. 37 player Clint Bowles.
Following Kosakowski’s victory, Seguso added another victory from the No. 6 position, and it was all over once freshman Adrien Puget won a tough match over Florida State’s Anderson Reed to clinch the Bruins’ win.
Puget pulled out a tie break victory in the second set to give him the straight-sets win on court No. 5. This match was especially important, with senior Amit Inbar on the verge of losing on court No. 2 and Thompson just beginning the third set of his match.
Puget was not paying much attention to the scoreboard or the matches around him, which is a key point the Bruins’ coaches try to stress to their players.
“I didn’t look up and see the scoreboard until the tie-breaker,” Puget said. “When I saw that I could win the match, that was when the pressure built up. It was a very good feeling to win a match like this since it’s our first match with real pressure.”
Similar sentiments were echoed after the match by coach Billy Martin.
“We ended up pulling out that doubles point, which was huge,” Martin said.
“Overall, the matches were pretty close. When you looked up at the scoreboard and saw that they were going to win at courts two, three and possibly four, we had to win on the other three courts.”
The successful weekend sets up the Bruins for the National Indoors next month.
“It wasn’t about just the win,” Martin said. “It was also about the right to carry on.”