The UCLA men’s tennis team is gaining a lot of confidence from its recent success, but the team is still focused on taking care of business against every opponent on its schedule.
Today, No. 2 UCLA faces off against unranked Hawai’i, a team the Bruins have defeated handily the last four seasons. With only three non-conference games left after today, the Bruins understand how important it is for them to win against teams like the Warriors that aren’t ranked as high as some of the teams in the Pac-12.
“If we take our opponents lightly and somehow go down in these last few non-conference games, it could ruin our confidence and hurt us in the rankings,” sophomore Marcos Giron said.
Coach Billy Martin has been relaying what he knows about Hawai’i from past years to some of his younger players.
He pointed out that one of Hawai’i’s players, Jonathan Brooklyn, has an older brother named Matt who was UCLA’s No. 1 singles player in 2009, but also said that Hawai’i isn’t playing as well as it has in the past.
“I don’t know if it’s one of their better years,” Martin said. “We’ve seen them the last couple of years and I think they will be a good team, but probably not one of the strongest we play all year.”
Last week, Giron became the 10th-ranked singles player in the nation, and after a victory in the Pacific Coast Doubles Championships, he’s looking to keep his string of strong play going against the team’s next challenger.
“We’ve got to be ready for Hawai’i,” Giron said. “I think coming out of this doubles tournament, it’s definitely good for our confidence to get out there.”
Looking at the big picture, Martin understands the importance of every match, and he doesn’t want the team to lose its current ranking or ruin its postseason aspirations by overlooking a team like Hawai’i.
“I think every match is important for us,” Martin said.
“If we want our closer regional tournament and get a good seed for the final tournament, we can’t step backwards right now.”
Sophomore Dennis Novikov understands Martin’s message, but he is still convinced the team shouldn’t have much trouble against the Warriors.
“It should be a routine win for us,” Novikov said. “We shouldn’t have any problems.”
He knows that UCLA’s opponents get stronger during conference play, and he wants his team to begin to step up its game.
“We want to keep our record flawless,” Novikov said. “Getting wins and matches under our belt is the main concern.”
After gaining a lot of momentum from the team’s last few victories, Giron wants to keep the level of play up in the last few non-conference matches before the more important Pac-12 matchups begin.
“We really want to make sure we go into the match focused and ready … so we can go into the conference matches with a lot of confidence and playing well,” Giron said.