UCLA men’s tennis suffered a heartbreaker at the tail end of the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships, falling to USC 4-3 last week.
The No. 3 Bruins were then faced with the difficult task of taking on the No. 2 Trojans in their very next match, at USC on Friday.
In a back-and-forth dogfight between the two schools that very much resembled their last encounter, UCLA was just a bit better and notched arguably its biggest win of the season in another 4-3 affair.
“Great win for us, especially with it being so close. Thank goodness, (sophomore Dennis) Mkrtchian and (sophomore) Marcos (Giron) really at the end there, pulled it through,” said coach Billy Martin. “Not to say the doubles wasn’t huge also. I can’t remember ’SC and ourselves having two closer matches back-to-back ever. And two really evenly matched teams.”
UCLA sealed the victory over USC when Giron clinched his singles match with a 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3) win over Emilio Gomez. The match was one of many close three-setters in singles play, with the final set tiebreaker between Giron and Gomez ultimately deciding the final outcome of the match. Mkrtchian also played a crucial role in UCLA’s victory Friday, with a win in doubles with redshirt senior Alex Brigham, followed by a 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3 win in singles.
“It was a great atmosphere. Being out there and battling hard, and willing yourself to victory. It’s the definition of a good college match. Pretty much everyone on both teams gave it their all out there, which made it such a great match,” Mkrtchian said.
After riding a roller coaster of emotions over the their back-to-back encounters with the Trojans, UCLA had to settle in for a home match against Saint Mary’s on Sunday.
The Bruins played well, improving to 11-1 on the season after a 6-1 victory over Saint Mary’s. Sophomore Karue Sell was particularly impressive, notching an 8-4 win in doubles with junior Adrien Puget. Sell then posted a 6-1, 6-2 victory in singles.
“It was really challenging not to lose focus. And everyone was kind of tired, because every match was really long on Friday and we only had one day off. But we all have to do our jobs out there,” Sell said. “Everyone started the doubles a bit slow, but we got the groove back quickly. It’s kind of tough, we had a huge loss and then a huge win. It’s tough to come back so quickly and be ready, but it’s good for the team.”
UCLA now has a few days off before heading to the Pacific Coast Doubles Championships in La Jolla, Calif. this weekend.
The Bruins said they feel good about their game, having posted back-to-back wins after their first loss of the season.
“It was a little hard for the guys (playing Sunday). I think it was more mental than anything for (Sunday). It’s never bad for us to play tennis,” Martin said. “(Saturday) was a bit of a coming down to earth, and then having to try to get the competitive juices going again for (Sunday).”