The UCLA men’s tennis team controls its own fate in its quest to claim the Pac-12 regular season title after this weekend’s sweeps of conference opponents Washington and Oregon.
With the wins, the No. 2 Bruins improved to a perfect 6-0 in conference play and 20-1 overall, but their final two regular season matches against Pepperdine and USC promise to challenge their strong record.
“There are two good wins over two darn good teams, but these next two matches will be two of the toughest matches we’ve played,” said coach Billy Martin. “I think we’re ready, and we’re looking forward to those matches.”
The Bruins defeated both opponents 7-0, giving them three consecutive shutouts after defeating Arizona by the same score line a week before. Sophomore Marcos Giron was a steady contributor in both matches, posting wins in doubles and singles, including a win with sophomore Dennis Novikov over Robin Cambier and Jeff Mullen of Oregon.
He then followed up with a victory over Mullen, where he had to fight back from a break down in the second set.
Giron said that he believes that his mental game could be more consistent, particularly as the Bruins finish out the regular season and head to the NCAA championships.
“Both days I started off strong (in singles), but in the second set both days I mentally wasn’t completely focused and maybe a little loose,” Giron said.
“Instead of getting up a break in the second set, I let them in and gave a little bit of confidence, a little bit of hope. And you really don’t want to go three sets with anyone, because who knows what can happen.”
Junior Adrien Puget was a standout performer against Oregon on Saturday, winning in doubles with redshirt freshman Karue Sell over Aaron Clissold and Daniel Sardu, and then in singles over Daan Maasland.
Although the singles match was a straight sets affair for Puget, the encounter was physical and closer than the score suggested.
Puget said that he believes that his match experience and mental toughness were crucial in his victory and will be very important to the Bruins’ success as they close out the season.
“It wasn’t an easy matchup and it wasn’t an easy match overall. It could have gone both ways. I think the experience, and also my mental toughness, was good today, so I’m happy with that,” Puget said.
Today, UCLA will play against No. 7 Pepperdine on the road. The Bruins are 4-0 in road matches on the season, but will have their hands full with the Waves, who are one of the toughest opponents they will face all season.
“We’re very excited to play this week. This is what college tennis is all about. It will be very good to see where we are against other top teams across the nation (Pepperdine and USC),” Giron said. “It will get us mentally sharp for the end of the season.”