Four members of the UCLA men’s tennis team got a head start on their season at the Land Rover Napa Valley Tennis Classic last weekend.
Hosted at the luxurious Meadowood Napa Valley in St. Helena, the tournament opened the season in style for UCLA.
Competing in the round-robin event for the Bruins were junior Warren Hardie, sophomores Adrien Puget and Clay Thompson, and freshman Dennis Mkrtchian.
The tournament is unique in that it included both junior and collegiate players in a round-robin format.
Six universities each sent four players to the event, and eight junior players ages 15-17 from around the nation rounded out the field.
Other schools that competed in the tournament were California, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Tulsa and Vanderbilt.
The 32 players were split into eight groups, with three collegiate players and one junior in each pool.
The tournament is touted as an important step between the junior and collegiate levels of tennis, and though the tournament was in its 11th year, this was only the second year the event has featured younger players. It was held exclusively for collegiate athletes from 2001 to 2009.
Hardie, Thompson and Puget all posted straight-set wins on the first day of competition.
Hardie defeated 15-year-old Spencer Papa 6-4, 6-2 and Thompson defeated 17-year-old Michael Redlicki 6-3, 7-5. Puget was the only UCLA athlete to play another collegian in his first match and toppled senior Niall Fitzgerald of Notre Dame 6-1, 6-4. Mkrtchian was unable to come away with a win in his first match, falling to Connor Farren of Hillsborough in three sets.
Puget and Hardie advanced as far as the quarterfinals on the second day of competition, but it was two athletes from Cal who stole the spotlight on Sunday.
Senior Nick Andrews defeated Hardie 10-8 in the quarterfinals, and Puget fell to Cal sophomore Ben McLachlan 10-2.
The two Cal teammates advanced to the semifinals, where each of them faced a non-collegiate opponent.
Andrews moved past the 16-year-old Farren 10-7, and McLachlan beat 17-year-old Alexios Halebian 10-7 to move forward.
In the finals, Andrews triumphed over McLachlan 10-7. With the win, Andrews earned a wild card from the United States Tennis Association that will place him into a yet to be determined Pro Circuit tournament and the Norma Miner Outstanding Player award.
Up next on the schedule for the Bruins is the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Men’s All-American Championships at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma.
The eight-day national tournament will feature collegiate athletes from across the country.
The last time a UCLA athlete made it to the finals was 1997, when UCLA’s Vince Allegre was defeated by Stanford’s Bob Bryan. Bryan went on to win back-to-back NCAA team championships with Stanford.
Compiled by Eric Peck, Bruin Sports senior staff.