A few points here and there and the UCLA men’s tennis team would have reached the finals of the ITA Indoors Championship this past weekend. Reflecting back, sophomore Marcos Giron and junior Adrien Puget pointed to a sub-par serving performance that caused the Bruins to lose such a close match.
In the semifinals of the ITA National Team Indoors on Sunday, the team fell to crosstown rival No. 2 USC, 4-3. Three of the four singles matches the Bruins lost came after they won the first set. In the end, the final match was decided by a third-set tiebreaker.
“The match can hinge on one or two points,” said coach Billy Martin. “Puget played a great match, but (USC tennis player) Roberto Quiroz also played very well and the quality of tennis was good even under that sort of pressure.”
Locked in a battle with Quiroz, the No. 23 player in the nation, Puget lost the tiebreaker, 7-4.
“I was feeling comfortable, but he played a great tiebreaker and didn’t make any mistakes or give me any free points,” Puget said.
To get into the semifinal, No. 3 UCLA beat No. 14 Tennessee on Friday and No. 6 Georgia on Saturday. Martin wasn’t disappointed with the performance of his players when reflecting on the weekend as a whole.
“I was really happy with the way the guys played. They … could not have come any closer to winning the match against ’SC,” Martin said.
Giron won his first set against USC, but he said he relaxed too much at the start of the second set and could not regain the momentum after falling down a break.
“It was a good tournament and we beat two good teams, but we still have some work to do,” Giron said.
Puget said the weekend showed the team it could contend for a national title. Another positive UCLA took from its loss was garnering the doubles point. Giron and sophomore Dennis Novikov upset the No. 48 doubles pair Ray Sarmiento and Yannick Hanfmann, 8-4, to clinch the point.
“This is the first time we’ve beaten USC in doubles in who knows how many years,” Giron said.
The Bruins’ first loss of the season was not an easy one for the team to swallow, but everyone continues to stay positive in anticipation of another shot at beating USC on Friday when Pac-12 conference play resumes.
“Even though it would have been nice to go to the finals, I am feeling very confident about the team,” Martin said.