After a long, grueling season filled with tense dual matches, UCLA coach Billy Martin is looking forward to a weekend where he can relax and take in some quality tennis without having to strategize and game-plan for every potential outcome.
That will be up to his players this weekend, when the top players from the UCLA men’s tennis team head to the Pac-10 Championships in Ojai in search of individual accolades and the chance to be crowned Pac-10 individual champions.
The Bruins will send their top five singles players to play in the singles main draw and their top two doubles teams to play in the doubles main draw, but they will be without their star freshman and No. 1 player Daniel Kosakowski, who is currently in Florida playing in professional futures tournaments.
“It’s a fun weekend,” Martin said. “As far as the team stuff goes, this is an easy weekend, since we don’t have to worry about this counting as far as anything to do with the team, but it will help in terms of individual rankings for the guys.”
The Bruin contingent will be led this weekend by senior Amit Inbar and freshman Clay Thompson.
“It’s amazing, but if you would (have) talked to me a week ago, I wouldn’t have said it, but Amit has been playing really great tennis,” Martin said. “That ‘SC match seems to have really lit a spark for him; he played his best match of the year.”
In regard to Thompson, Martin lauded the young freshman with high praise.
“Clay has been playing great. He has been in as good form as anyone,” Martin said. “He has been playing a big brand of tennis with his big serve and forehand, taking charge of points and dominating against quality players.”
Joining Inbar and Thompson will be freshman Adrien Puget, redshirt sophomore Alex Brigham and sophomores Maxime Tabatruong and Warren Hardie.
Brigham and Puget are the No. 4-seeded team in the doubles draw, while Hardie will play with Inbar as the second doubles team from UCLA in the main draw.
“It’s an individual showcase,” Inbar said. “It’s a good opportunity for our guys to try and play well and increase our rankings to hopefully play in NCAA individuals.”
With personal glory on the line, Inbar and his teammates believe that this weekend has far less pressure than any UCLA dual match.
“There is much less pressure; we will be playing loose and going for our shots, and hopefully, we can come out with some wins,” Inbar said.
The Bruins’ best hope in doubles should be the tandem of Puget and Brigham, who are currently the No. 40 doubles team in the country.
“Hopefully we will play good,” Puget said. “I’ve heard that there is a great atmosphere and I think I am prepared for the challenge. There will be great matches all weekend, so I’m going to be pumped.”
With the Bruins traveling this weekend to Ojai, they will be able to enjoy the weekend before learning their fates regarding NCAA regionals and whether or not they will host their first- and second-round matches. The seedings will be announced Monday.