The UCLA men’s tennis team had a change of scenery when it went to warm up before Thursday morning’s practice. Gone were the bright green tennis balls bouncing against the blue hardcourt. Replacing them were hardwood and a 10-foot basketball hoop.
“We all like playing basketball, and sometimes it’s fun to play a different sport,” said senior Karue Sell. “The basketball court is right next to the tennis court, so we figured, let’s warm up there, shoot some hoops. It wasn’t anything special. We just went there and played. We usually don’t do anything like that during season, so we figured it would be fun.”
The different pace was nice for the Bruins who lost Tuesday. After the five-on-five pickup, the No. 9 UCLA men’s tennis team went back at it, preparing for the ITA Division I Men’s National Team Indoor Championships in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The Indoor Championships is the second largest tournament behind May’s NCAA Championships and will be a chance for the Bruins to redeem themselves following Tuesday’s loss to No. 1 Virginia. The 16 teams in the main draw are generally regarded as the top teams in the nation, and the Bruins find themselves as the No. 7 seed this weekend. After a couple days of practice in Charlottesville, coach Billy Martin is confident that his team has adjusted to the faster indoor surface.
“I feel there’s no real panic. We’re just here to do the best we can to adapt and try to get this next win,” Martin said. “We knew (playing indoors) would be tough for us, and it generally is with the lack of indoor tennis for us.”
UCLA’s first round match will be against a familiar opponent: No. 10-seeded Georgia Bulldogs. The Bruins fought for a 6-1 win over the Bulldogs in an outdoors home match during the Pac-12/SEC Challenge in late January. Although both teams know the other’s playing style, Martin doesn’t mind the familiarity.
“I don’t think there will be quite as many surprises,” Martin said. “It would’ve maybe been more fun to play someone else who we haven’t already played just so we get a feel for some of the other teams, but I don’t think it’s bad or good.”
Junior co-captain Mackie McDonald believes the weeklong stay in Charlottesville has focused the team on its matchup against Georgia.
“We’ve prepared well, and I think we’re definitely gonna be hungry for the first match against Georgia,” McDonald said. “We know how tough they’re gonna be. After we beat them they switched their lineup a bit, so there will be some different looks in terms of players.”
The Bruins welcomed several new additions to the singles and doubles rankings released by the ITA on Wednesday. At court one is McDonald, tied for No. 34. Sophomore Martin Redlicki and junior Gage Brymer moved up to No. 37 and No. 80, respectively. Doubles team McDonald and Redlicki showed up at No. 12.
If UCLA wins Friday, the Bruins will advance to Saturday’s quarterfinal round against either Texas A&M or Columbia.