The battle between No. 3 UCLA and No. 21 Tulsa came down to the wire, with the outcome undecided until the final singles match.
However, the Bruins were not disheartened by how long it took them to win.
“A win is a win. I think if we were able to prepare like we normally do … we would have been a little bit better ourselves,” said coach Billy Martin.
The Bruins claimed a 4-3 victory, in which the doubles point was crucial to the final outcome. In its last outing against Baylor, UCLA dropped the doubles point but was able to sweep singles play to claim a 6-1 victory. This time, the doubles point came down to redshirt senior Alex Brigham and sophomore Dennis Novikov, who won their match to clinch it.
“I’m really proud…That’s the first time they’ve played together this year,” Martin said. “Alex really was the guy that came through there, and really showed why he has been one of our absolute best doubles players the last three years.”
Brigham and Novikov pulled out the win in their match in a tiebreaker.
“I’d say the key was to stay positive and stay calm, and keep the energy going,” Brigham said.
“The thing is that when I play a lot of these matches I start to realize a lot of these guys are tight under pressure, so that gives me a boost of energy. It makes me more focused.”
Had the gritty doubles win gone to Tulsa, the outcome of the entire match could have been swayed.
After losing his doubles match with junior Clay Thompson, sophomore Dennis Mkrtchian was able to regroup and pick up a win in singles.
“I’m confident in my singles game, not saying I’m not confident in my doubles game, but I know that I can put that (doubles loss) past me and start out strong,” Mkrtchian said. “The last thing a team needs is a player to lose in doubles and then start slow in singles – that’s just the worst – so I knew I had to come out and start fast and strong.”
The team will not play again until it heads up to face California and Stanford for back-to-back conference road matches on Friday and Saturday. In the meantime, the Bruins believe they can use the time off as a good breather before heading into the final stretch of the season.
“We’ve really got to shut it down for a few days. These guys have to focus entirely on studies,” Martin said. “They’re going to have to do a little bit of tennis and running on their own. And we’ll start practice again the Friday right after finals … and be ready to battle in our Pac-12 matches.”