Long after the outcome of the match was decided, the No. 9 UCLA men’s tennis team was still hollering and cheering on the last two Bruins left on the court.
They brought the intensity from start to finish, continuing their undefeated start to the season with a second consecutive rout against a top-25 opponent. Behind straight-set victories by senior Karue Sell, sophomore Martin Redlicki and junior Joe Di Giulio, the Bruins swept No. 16 University of San Diego 7-0.
“I’m so happy about this win and really proud of the team,” said coach Billy Martin. “I knew this was gonna be a really tough match for us. Winning lopsidedly is something I never imagined, quite honestly.”
A couple of the Bruins were familiar with their opponents Friday. In the fall, Redlicki fell to USD’s Jordan Angus, the No. 34-ranked singles player in the nation, in the second round of All-American qualifiers, while Sell lost to the Toreros’ Romain Kalaydjian, the No. 82 ranked singles player, at the USTA/ITA Southwest Regional Championships. Both won their rematches in less than an hour.
“I definitely didn’t want to lose to him twice,” Redlicki said. “It was in the back of my mind, but I’m not gonna say it was my primary motivator. I was just focused on my game, and I executed perfectly today.”
Redlicki and junior Mackie McDonald clinched the doubles point for UCLA with a 6-4 victory over the No. 7 pair in the country, USD’s Angus and Filip Vittek, and the momentum carried into singles play.
“Martin played really quite well today, probably in my opinion the best match he’s had since he’s gotten back in January,” Martin said. “He really looked like himself out there – moving his feet, playing smart, being aggressive.”
For the second time in three weeks, Di Giulio’s victory, 6-3, 6-3 over the Toreros’ Jaan Kononov, was the deciding point for UCLA. With McDonald recovering from his injury to begin the season, Di Giulio started in the No. 6 slot. Because of his strong play, Martin decided to stick with him over sophomore Austin Rapp at court six when McDonald returned last week.
“I think (Martin) trusts me right now, so I just got to keep winning matches and showing him that I can play at a high level,” Di Giulio said. “I know Austin’s playing well, so I got to stay focused and make sure I play my game so Martin keeps me in.”
A former blue-chip recruit, Di Giulio has also worked with Martin to adjust the way he plays.
“I’ve been working on a lot of things in my game, specifically my forehand,” Di Giulio said. “I’ve changed a few things with my technique, and I’ve been trying to play a more aggressive style. I was working on it a lot this summer, and I’m finally able to do it in matches. I feel a lot better out there this year than last year so far, and I just got to keep building off of it.”
Courts one, three and five all featured three-set matches. McDonald battled from a set down to defeat USD’s Uros Petronijevic, the No. 35 singles player. Junior Gage Brymer downed Vittek 6-0, 4-6, 6-2 and sophomore Logan Staggs secured the shutout with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over the Toreros’ Joshua Page.