Correction: Due to a technical error, this article should have been published Monday, Feb. 28.
The forecast called for rain, but regardless, there was a tennis match scheduled on Saturday. Pitted against California, the UCLA men’s tennis team’s determination that has characterized much of their season was much like the rain ““ nowhere to be found.
Cal stunned UCLA with a major 5-2 upset, on a day when the Bruins simply did not bring their best.
No. 5 UCLA had shown grit in most of its matches thus far. On Saturday this sense of urgency was simply not there.
With several players admitting that they did not expect to play on Saturday because of the weather forecast, a mentality that coach Billy Martin had cautioned against, the Bruins’ performance out of the gates was underwhelming.
“Even though the forecast looked really bad (Friday), I tried to prepare (the players) mentally that they were going to have to play today,” Martin said. “The bottom line is that (Cal) is a very good team, we did not play well, and if we don’t play well we are not going to beat good teams like this.”
The No. 20 Bears quickly jumped out to dominant starts on all three courts in the doubles and was able to quickly secure the coveted point by victories on courts No. 1 and No. 2.
“The doubles point gave Cal the momentum and the feeling that they could beat us,” Martin said. “It set the stage and gave them the thought that we were definitely beatable ““ something that we definitely don’t want to have when we are at home.”
In turning to singles, UCLA fared slightly better but was still clearly outmatched on the day. On the other side of the net, Cal boasted three of the top 100 players nationally and was not a team to be taken lightly.
UCLA took a fairly quick loss at court No. 2 when No. 82 Carlos Cueto of Cal soundly beat No. 84 Amit Inbar. After losing another tough decision on court No. 1, Cal had an insurmountable 3-1 match advantage. UCLA closed the gap to 3-2 with a gritty win from freshman Clay Thompson at court No. 3, but Cal soon finished the match behind a win at court No. 6 by senior Bozhidar Katsarov over UCLA’s Alex Brigham.
The lone bright spots for the Bruins on an otherwise dreary day were their performances at No. 3 and No. 5 singles. Freshman Adrien Puget put on a stellar performance in a dominant 6-3, 6-3 victory, upping his undefeated record in dual matches up to 8-0.
“I earned some confidence and changed my game a little bit at indoors,” Puget said. “I’m happy with my level and performance in singles.”
Following Puget’s lead was fellow freshman Clay Thompson, who gutted out a tough win in a match in which he was clearly laboring from illness and fatigue. He pulled out a three-set victory over No. 95 Chris Konigsfeldt, improving his record in dual matches to 6-0 on the year.
“I was going to feel terrible if I couldn’t win this point for us,” Thompson said. “There was no way I was going to lose that match.”
All season long, Martin has reiterated that his team is not a great team yet. But he still insists that it holds potential.
“This is the first time all year we didn’t scrap for a win. We were complacent, and that’s what was so disappointing,” Martin said. “Still I’m not super disappointed ““ we are going to have some setbacks.”