For many UCLA men’s tennis players on Saturday, the scoreboard was the main source of motivation – all six players took their first set, and all six went on to win their second set as well.
“It’s really motivating, you want to show the coach that you’re here, so you’ve got to do the same job as your teammates and win,” said junior Adrien Puget.
No. 3 UCLA defeated Fresno State in straight sets en route to a 7-0 victory. The team started off well in doubles, as Puget and redshirt freshman Karue Sell won 8-3, and sophomore Dennis Mkrtchian alongside junior Clay Thompson won 8-4. Overall, coach Billy Martin said he was happy that the Bruins took care of business by defeating a team that they expected to beat.
“I’m always happy when they go out and play at what I feel is their level,” Martin said.
Sophomore Dennis Novikov struggled, at least by his own standards, to start the season, but he sees many improvements in the team.
“We played well overall – we’re doing what we need to get the job done,” Novikov said.
Redshirt freshman Ryoto Tachi was the last to finish, and as he battled through a tiebreaker in the second set, all of his teammates were right there cheering him on.
“I guess people think it’s more pressure, but I didn’t feel that at all,” Tachi said. “It’s really great being part of the team, great program, great coaches, great staff, and its fun competing out there with them.”
Playing on court 2, Puget coasted through his first set 6-2, but struggled to find his serve in the second set after battling off double break point when the set was tied 4-4, eventually winning the set 6-4. Puget pointed to a direct correlation between the strength of his serve on any given day, and the success of his overall play.
“It’s really tough, my serve was kind of off today, so I had to battle and grind on the baseline,” Puget said.
Although coach Martin thinks the team could use some more conditioning work, he pointed out there is room for improvement in other nonphysical aspects of the game.
“I think right now it’s really more mental than anything else,” Martin said.
He added that it is important that the team avoid relaxing after a few good games, and that they have to put the “pedal to the metal and (play) solid.”
Contact Joshua Zarouri at firstname.lastname@example.org.