Just a day after the season ended in heartbreak for the UCLA men’s tennis team, three players had to take to the courts. Sophomores Marcos Giron and Dennis Novikov and junior Adrien Puget were at it again when they competed for the NCAA men’s tennis singles championships.
The Bruins’ results were underwhelming, with no player advancing past the round of 16. After a physically taxing run to the team championship and a mentally depleting loss, the Bruins were unable to sustain the high level of play they displayed all season.
“It didn’t go extremely well for us. Puget was probably mentally not ready to jump in and play the next day. Novikov won a good first round and lost to Kobelt from Ohio State in three sets,” said coach Billy Martin.
“I don’t like the placement of that tournament, especially when you do well in the team tournament. There is no chance to recover physically.”
Of the three Bruins competing in the singles competition, Giron performed the best. He knocked off No. 5 seed Romaine Bogaerts from Mississippi State in straight sets, but eventually fell to Soren Hess-Olesen of Texas in the round of 16.
Novikov and Puget struggled, especially Puget, who had to play the day after his loss in the team championship.
“There were a lot of people that were trying to get into my head. I didn’t really expect that and wasn’t prepared for it. So it was kind of a shock when I came out there,” Puget said.
“Our coach really emphasizes us not being too affected by a loss the day before and being able to bounce back. It wasn’t so much about the endurance part, but my intensity wasn’t that high, which was my real issue that day.”
In the wake of coming so close to the national championship, Giron said he believes that the mental strain of playing so many back-to-back matches may have caught up with them.
The Bruins ended their season 29-2 as a team, and despite the early singles losses, they are looking to come back again next year as legitimate contenders for a national title.
“It was kind of tough playing match after match after match. I had confidence after having a couple very big wins in the team competition. But in the end it’s all very mental,” Giron said.
“Sometimes it can be tough playing all those back-to-back matches and not mentally being loose for one of them. It was kind of a disappointing ending for us all. I think next year we really have a good chance of going the distance.”