Even with two disappointing losses to rivals on consecutive days, the UCLA men’s tennis team proved that, on any given day, it can go toe-to-toe with the best teams in the country.
The Bruins also proved that they can get beaten handily when not bringing their best effort.
On March 25, No. 16 UCLA fought in a bitter 4-3 loss against No. 6 California, before getting blown off the court on Saturday in a 6-1 loss to No. 12 Stanford.
These losses not only continued UCLA’s decline in the rankings, but also placed the Bruins in an 0-2 hole in Pac-10 play to start the season, while putting them at 0-4 on the season against their in-state rivals: Cal, USC and Stanford.
Even in the wake of the Bruins’ recent setbacks, there is no air of pessimism in the program. Coach Billy Martin has reiterated all year that this is a young team that would take some lumps as its schedule got progressively tougher.
Fortunately for the Bruins, they will have a chance for redemption and, more importantly, the opportunity to get their first wins in Pac-10 play today and Saturday when they face Washington and Oregon, respectively.
Washington is currently ranked No. 20 in the nation and boasts a lineup headlined by three nationally ranked singles players in No. 68 Kyle McMorrow, No. 74 Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and No. 85 Martin Kildahl.
The battle-tested Huskies begin Pac-10 play against the Bruins and should provide yet another tough test for a UCLA team that is fighting to remain in the race for a Pac-10 championship.
On Saturday, the Bruins face a much easier test in the Ducks,who are currently ranked No. 65 in the nation. Freshmen Alex Rovello and Robin Cambier both serve as the Ducks’ top two singles players as well as the team’s top doubles tandem.
Oregon is also riding some momentum, having won their first Pac-10 matchup in an upset victory over No. 56 Arizona.
While the Bruins have lost tough decisions in their last two matches, there have been some bright spots in those contests.
This was on display when freshman phenom Daniel Kosakowski downed the No. 17 player in the nation, Cal’s Pedro Zerbini, to give the Bruins a puncher’s chance at a victory.
Another bright spot has been the doubles play of senior Amit Inbar and sophomore transfer Warren Hardie, who were able to scrape out victories against both Cal and Stanford.
These victories provided some consistency to a doubles lineup that has sorely lacked constant positive performances throughout the season.
Compiled by Rohan Popat, Bruin Sports contributor.