De Vroome/Johnson (USC) - 1
All season long, the UCLA men’s tennis team has used doubles to turn a seemingly individual sport like tennis into a team one. But, ironically, this weekend the team showed off its individual talents in doubles.
Although they still represented UCLA, five individual doubles teams took part in the Pacific Coast Doubles Championships in La Jolla, Calif.
UCLA’s No. 1 doubles pairing, sophomores Dennis Novikov and Marcos Giron, took home the doubles title after defeating a team from USC in three sets.
“It feels great being the champions,” Giron said. “It’s nice heading back to Los Angeles with the title.”
Four players of the five UCLA doubles pairings reached the quarterfinals this weekend, something coach Billy Martin was pleased to see.
Because UCLA had so many strong pairings this weekend, Novikov and Giron ended up beating their teammates, redshirt senior Alex Brigham and junior Clay Thompson, in the quarterfinals. Naturally, this brought some heated competition to the court, something the coach picked up on while watching.
“I think that might have been the best match Marcos and Novikov played all weekend,” Martin said. “They looked pretty fired up.”
The Bruins were excited to get a lot of doubles practice in against strong competition, but viewed their success in the tournament as more of an afterthought in the grand scheme of things.
“It gives us confidence in our doubles games – we took care of our serves and returns – and should help me and Novikov in team play,” Giron said.
Novikov looked at the tournament as an opportunity for the pairing to work on different tactics that they rarely have time to improve upon because of the shorter doubles format for regular season matches.
“Me and Marcos definitely have a lot more confidence,” Novikov said. “In San Diego, we played two out of three sets so we got to tinker with how we play to see what works best.”
Beating a pairing from the crosstown Trojans was just icing on the cake for the Bruins. Bringing home a trophy from a tournament that’s been around for 124 years is something Martin believes will help rally the team moving forward.
“It’s a prestigious tournament that a lot of great teams have won throughout the years,” Martin said. “It helps us make sure that our doubles is improving and we’re getting a little better each and every week.”