Through the first 12 matches of the season, the UCLA men’s tennis team has seldom been challenged.
In compiling an 11-1 record, the No. 3 Bruins have had only two matches come down to the final point. Both came in the last week and a half, splitting a pair of 4-3 decisions against No. 2 USC.
It is in these close matches that the Bruins believe their conditioning, not just physically, but mentally as well, becomes an important factor. As the season progresses, conditioning is an aspect of their game the Bruins will strive to improve.
“It’s still not even half way through our season yet. We have to be in a lot better shape come May to possibly have a chance to win the NCAA championships,” said coach Billy Martin. “These matches are really good for us … you know, concentration-wise, and being able to sustain it for a few days.”
If anything, the matches this past weekend against USC and Saint Mary’s gave the team a good indicator of what it needs to work on. The grueling 4-3 win over USC tested the physical conditioning of UCLA, and the emotions that led into the Saint Mary’s match led to early struggles in an eventual 6-1 win.
“We definitely need to work a little bit on conditioning. We had a big match Friday, and everyone was kind of tired by the end of it,” said redshirt freshman Karue Sell.
Sophomore Dennis Mkrtchian said it is important for the Bruins to not let their guard down, regardless of the opponent, and to come in with the same mentality and focus toward every match. In addition to conditioning, he also feels their encounters with USC give the team a good idea of the kind of test they can expect from a squad they’ll face at least one more time this season.
“The good thing is that we’re going to play them a few more times. And it’s exciting to know that we’re going to have to go out there and compete hard all of the time,” Mkrtchian said. “We want to beat them every time, so we’re going to be ready and go out there and play hard.”