Correction: The original version of this article contained an error. Adrien Puget won his match 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.
There was definitely a battle in North Texas on Sunday.
In this contest, there was no halftime entertainment by the Black Eyed Peas or any memorable wardrobe malfunctions; just an intense battle between two top-ranked foes decided by the slimmest of margins.
This was not Super Bowl XLV, but it sure felt that way for the No. 6 UCLA men’s tennis team, as it outlasted No. 9 Baylor, 4-3, on Sunday afternoon in Waco, Texas. Freshman Clay Thompson served as the hero by winning a final-set tiebreaker in the last match.
The Bruins found themselves in a battle early after losing the doubles point, but the tide began to turn in the Bruins’ favor once singles play started.
Senior Holden Seguso started off strong with a tone-setting victory, and senior captain Amit Inbar triumphed at the No. 2 position in three sets.
“Holden played great,” coach Billy Martin said. “So did Amit. That was a tough guy he was playing against, and he really played a great third set.”
The Bruins lost tough matches on both the No. 1 and No. 3 courts. Freshman Daniel Kosakowski went three sets, but fell to No. 22 nationally-ranked John Peers.
Given uncertainties on several courts, the duel came down to two matches from two freshmen in Adrien Puget and Thompson.
Puget fought back from a seemingly insurmountable deficit ““ two games away from losing in straight sets ““ to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.
“Hell of an effort from Adrien,” Martin said of his freshman. “His opponent got a little tentative. But when Adrien was down, he never gave up. He kept competing and pulled through that match. It turned out his match was very important.”
When Puget was down 4-1 in the second set, and all the momentum was against him, even he was unsure of himself.
“I was almost certain that I would lose that match,” Puget said. “But I knew I had to win. My teammates were huge in cheering me on. I’m not sure if I could have done so well without their support.”
Following Puget’s battle and the narrow defeat of Kosakowski, the match came down to Thompson.
Thompson easily won the first set, but his opponent responded to force an epic showdown in the third.
Thompson held off multiple match points in his third-set tiebreaker, and had three match points of his own before finally converting on his fourth. Thompson did not shy away from the pressure of the moment.
“The other guy was nervous, but I was loving it,” Thompson said. “I think that’s what pushed me over the edge and really pulled me through.”
Martin lauded Thompson’s effort.
“The crowd was on him a bit,” Martin said. “He kept his head. He showed incredible effort and never lost the will to win.”
In the Bruins’ first tilt with a top-10 foe, they earned incredible respect from their coach.
“They responded unbelievably,” Martin said. “The guys have shown me unbelievable character.”
The victory helped the Bruins stay undefeated on the year and it is safe to say that their trip to Texas was certainly super in its result.