After struggling through their first challenge of the season against San Diego on Tuesday, UCLA men’s tennis hit its stride this weekend with wins over top conference opponents Stanford and California.
“I think these are all good building blocks and really tough matches for us, especially with the Indoors coming up. We need these tough matches, especially some three setters,” said coach Billy Martin. “What it generally comes down to when you play the absolute top teams, you’re not going to run away with it.”
After a 6-1 victory over No. 13 Cal on Saturday, UCLA is now 7-0 on the season.
One of the weekend’s standout performers was junior Clay Thompson, who posted a victory over Trey Strobel in No. 3 UCLA’s 7-0 sweep of No. 19 Stanford on Friday. On Saturday, he went on to win a tight three-setter which saw him squander multiple match points, before finally defeating Gregory Bayane of Cal 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.
“We’re a really talented team, we need to really start building chemistry together, and need to be fighting for each other. Our chemistry is still a little weak, and that’s the main thing we have got to improve on,” Thompson said.
Sophomore Dennis Novikov provided a spark in the weekend’s singles play, getting off to a quick start against Stanford, where he posted a win over Matt Kandath.
“The first set I guess I just kind of got away with it, and maybe loosened up a little bit (in the second set),” Novikov said.
Novikov went on to clinch a tough 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win over Ben McLachlan of Cal, one of several hard fought singles victories over the course of the two conference matches. Redshirt freshman Karue Sell continued to produce solid tennis throughout the weekend, as he won all four of his matches, two in doubles with junior Adrien Puget, and two in singles.
Overall, the Bruins feel confident heading into the USTA/ITA National Indoors Championships this coming weekend in Seattle.
“Yeah, it was definitely the two toughest opponents we’ve played over the last couple days. (Saturday) was definitely the best I’ve played so far, so that’s good,” Sell said.
“I think USD was our first little challenge, so everyone was a little bit tight. But now everyone seems more relaxed, we’re playing good doubles and good singles.”