After a full two weeks off since their last nail-biter against Tulsa, No. 4 UCLA men’s tennis ended its conference road trip with victories over No. 15 Cal and Stanford. With the victories, the Bruins are now 4-0 on the road and 16-1 overall.
While it was UCLA’s longest break of the season, it was able to sustain a high enough level of play to notch two very crucial victories.
“You’re always a little bit concerned from a coach’s standpoint if the guys are quite as sharp as they were before we went on break,” said coach Billy Martin. “We probably didn’t play our best matches but I thought we played well and I know we’ll get better now that we’re getting into it again. These are two good wins for us, on the road, at tough places to play.”
The Bruins won both encounters by a score of 5-2, fueled by strong play in singles from sophomore Dennis Novikov, who defeated Christoffer Konigsfeldt of Cal followed by a defeat of Nolan Paige of Stanford. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, however, as Novikov and sophomore Marcos Giron lost their doubles match 8-4, which resulted in UCLA losing the doubles point to Stanford. The Bruins came out with a different mentality in singles, winning five of six matches.
“My confidence definitely goes up each and every time I have a win, so that’s good. Feeling like I’m able to hit all of my shots better and everything,” Novikov said. “Every day I need to keep improving, getting stronger and fitter, and trying to polish everything that I already have.”
Junior Adrien Puget was another difference maker in singles, claiming a 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Campbell Johnson of Cal, in addition to a win over Maciek Romanowicz of Stanford. In the match against the Cardinal, the solid efforts from the likes of Novikov and Puget in singles were crucial to the victory, after the Bruins came out flat in the doubles play.
“It’s always tough to come out strong after losing the doubles point, but it’s also kind of like a reaction, you lose the doubles point and then you know you have to come out and right away be ready (in singles),” Puget said.
The Bruins jumped out to a 2-0 start in conference play, and will play the remaining five conference contests at home.
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