The match was already settled. UCLA had won, but The Beards were still scrapping.
For all intents and purposes, UCLA’s weekend road trip had finished when sophomore Adrien Puget beat Utah’s Devin Lane to give the UCLA men’s tenins team a 4-1 lead and a match-clinching victory.
However, sophomore Clay Thompson and redshirt senior Nick Meister, UCLA’s two top players, who are referred to by their facial hair on the Twitter feed of UCLA tennis, still had to finish their respective matches.
“It’s always tough to be the match that is on after the (team) match is already clinched,” Thompson said.
“We want to set an example for the rest of the guys, but you know it’s tough sometimes.”
Thompson and Meister both won their matches in tiebreakers, with Meister coming back to win after losing his first set 4-6.
The team captain viewed his match as anything but a formality.
“Once the team wins you can kind of take a deep breath and be like, “˜Okay, we got this.’ But I think it’s important for your confidence and for the following matches that you take it seriously,” Meister said.
The conditions in Utah played a part in Meister’s early struggles: The redshirt senior and the rest of the Bruins had to adjust to playing above sea level.
“It was pretty tough to get a feel for it in the first set, a lot of the balls were flying because of the altitude,” Meister said.
“Once I was able to get my bearings straight, then I was able to take over the second set,” he said.
Coach Billy Martin underlined the importance of his two top players giving their all even in less than compelling matches.
“I want to make sure they stay focused and don’t get too relaxed and let it go to the wayside,” Martin said.
Thompson and Meister have led No. 5 UCLA to a 4-0 record in the Pac-12.
At the same time, they’ve also been competing against each other for the overall No. 1 spot in the Bruins’ line-up all year.
Over the process, they have garnered a lot of respect for one another.
“His mental game and his focus is really something everyone should strive to have,” Thompson said about Meister.
“He’s the type of guy who always gives 110 percent in practice.”
Meister returned the compliment to his sophomore teammate: “I can kind of study (Clay’s) demeanor. He just kind of shrugs things off like, “˜Yeah I know this is a pressure moment but I can hit my forehand big and I’m going to do that right now.’”
Thompson’s big forehand will be needed this coming weekend at home when UCLA takes on No. 11 Stanford and No. 12 California.
The Bruins can rest assured that regardless of how big the situation, The Beards will be going all out.