In the most pivotal match of his tennis career, Nick Meister decided to charge.
In the previous points of his last regular season match of 2012, he adhered to a conservative strategy, navigating the baseline and hoping USC’s Ray Sarmiento would make a rare unforced error.
His coach didn’t like that.
“(Coach Krzysztof Kwinta) gave me a look like, “˜You should be down right now.’ He was always telling me to be more aggressive,” Meister said.
So, in the most important moment of his Bruin tennis career and with the conference championship on the line, Meister rushed the net unexpectedly.
“I wouldn’t have done that early in my career,” he said. “I would have just played the baseline and hoped he’d make a mistake.”
The redshirt senior won the point, and went on to win the match.
“You can see his maturity on and off the court. He always brings his A-game,” Kwinta said.
The win was arguably the biggest in Meister’s career at UCLA, and it propelled the Bruins to an upset victory and conference title.
This wasn’t the only upset of Meister’s career ““ even his choice to come to Westwood was unexpected.
“UCLA was always so stacked. They weren’t necessarily my top school,” he said.
Meister was also considering academic powerhouses Northwestern and Duke. In the end, UCLA offered the perfect balance between academics and tennis.
Even more than the facilities, the L.A. Tennis Center or the weather, what Meister really valued about Bruin tennis was coach Billy Martin’s honesty.
“Coach was straight with me from the beginning. That was something that I didn’t get from the other coaches,” Meister said. “They weren’t as direct. Martin didn’t promise me anything. I respected that, and my parents respected that.”
Meister led the team with 30 wins in his freshman year.
His sophomore year he won the deciding match in the NCAA quarterfinals that sent the UCLA to the Elite Eight.
In his third season he was ranked as high as No. 73 in the nation and beat Cal’s top-ranked Pedro Zerbini in straight sets. After undergoing hip surgery in 2011 and receiving a medical redshirt, he came back to lead this year’s team to the Final Four.
“Our team would not be in the same position this year, or any of the years that he played, without (Meister). He’s just such a special kid,” Martin said.
“I will always be grateful that he was a Bruin and chose to come and play for us.”