The Sherwood Collegiate Cup has become an annual tradition of sorts for the UCLA men’s tennis team.
The tournament is the final opportunity for individual players to prove themselves before the grind of in-season dual meets begins. It’s the last chance coach Billy Martin has to examine his players’ physical fitness and mental toughness before he sets his starting lineup.
“For pretty much all of us, it’s a big factor for how we’re going to start the season off,” said sophomore Logan Staggs. “I think there’s a lot of pressure because this tournament will affect who will start first in front of others.”
While the players all want to win matches and advance deep into the main draw, Martin’s emphasis for this tournament is to find the lineup of players that gives UCLA the best chance to win dual meets right away.
“My main focus is to see where I feel my guys are at – conditioning-wise, how their mental state is on the court, are they out of control or panicking, how all that is,” Martin said. “To me, that’ll determine how I’ll set out the lineup for next Wednesday’s match (against University of San Francisco).”
As a team, UCLA begins the year ranked No. 14 in the nation and will face tough competition in Sherwood against No. 4 Baylor, No. 8 USC and No. 20 Stanford.
“This tournament’s more special because of the level of play out there. Every guy in the draw is good, so it gives us an opportunity to get some good wins,” said sophomore Austin Rapp. “This could be a confidence booster going into the season for all of us.”
Sherwood is also an opportunity for both players and coaches to familiarize themselves with fresh faces, especially since UCLA has dual meets against each school later in the season as well.
“I think Sherwood really gives us a good feel, especially with USC and Stanford, who we will be battling with in Pac-12 competition,” Martin said. “We play Baylor again here at home in March, so it would be helpful for us to see their players and some of the new Stanford and USC players.”
UCLA has the No. 3 seed in the singles draw in sophomore Martin Redlicki, and the No. 2 seed in the doubles draw with the pair of junior Joseph Di Giulio and senior Karue Sell. In total, nine different UCLA players are entered in the 32-player draw, not including No. 1 singles player Mackie McDonald. At the very least, UCLA can showcase its depth and justify its top-15 ranking this weekend.
“We know we’re one of the better teams in the country,” Rapp said. “We need to prove ourselves to those guys.”
The Sherwood Cup is definitely the place to do so.