Billy Martin wasn’t satisfied with his players’ performance.
Following a semifinal appearance at the ITA Division I Men’s National Team Indoor Championships in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, the coach expected more out of the No. 4 UCLA men’s tennis team in the 7-0 victory over UC Irvine.
“I’m happy for the win, but quite honestly, we didn’t look extremely sharp in my opinion,” Martin said. “I think we looked a little ragged as far as energy goes, but that was to be expected.”
The team’s flight back from Virginia was delayed due to weather, and the players had fewer days to reacclimate to outdoor tennis.
“I would have hoped to (be) back on Monday and have an extra day and a half,” Martin said. “We didn’t get home until two, three late Tuesday night. Everything had to be accelerated – we had to try to get adjusted to the outdoors. I was a little worried about the match because I felt for the guys as far as having to travel, be indoors and go outdoors immediately. (It’s) not a great situation, but it was something we had to deal with.”
Arguably, no one was happier to return to the outdoor courts of the Los Angeles Tennis Center than Joseph Di Giulio. The junior struggled in his first couple indoor matches, spurring Martin to replace him with sophomore Austin Rapp in the lineup last weekend. Rapp, however, sprained his ankle in his final match, leading Di Giulio to play in his customary No. 6 singles spot.
“I was playing well outdoors before we left for Virginia, so I told myself I’m just gonna come back and play how I was before I left for indoors,” Di Giulio said. “I came back, had a few good days of practice, and wanted to go back to how I was playing before.”
Di Giulio teamed with senior Karue Sell to defeat Irvine’s Sebastian Heim and Nico Mertens 6-3 in doubles, and in singles Di Giulio routed the Anteaters’ Vatsal Bajpai 6-2, 6-1 in an hour.
“I lost a few tough matches and then Billy took me out,” Di Giulio said. “I was pretty frustrated with everything that was going on, and I just wanted to come back here, have a few good days of practice and come out and play a good match. I’m happy to be outdoors again and get my confidence back.”
Junior Gage Brymer, who clinched UCLA’s victory with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Irvine’s Tyler Pham, said the entire team had to recalibrate their timing the past couple days in practice, but they were happy to be home.
“I started off a little tight in the beginning,” Brymer said. “I felt like I started off a little slow, but once I got the break in and I started getting going, I rolled through the end of the first and took the momentum into the second (set).”
While Brymer usually plays doubles with Rapp, freshman Max Cressy filled in for the injured sophomore. The pair secured the doubles point for UCLA with a 6-3 victory over UC Irvine’s Jonathan Hammel and Pham. Cressy is one of two freshmen on the team, but he already has five doubles wins under his belt.
“Max might be one of our better doubles players,” Martin said. “He’s showing that he’s ready to play – he’s done a great job in the matches he’s played in. Max, when he’s had to step in, or when I’ve asked him to step in, has done a great job.”
In the only matchup between ranked players, No. 34 junior Mackie McDonald, the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week, bested No. 67 Heim 6-2, 6-1 to win UCLA’s first singles point. Sell and sophomore Logan Staggs also had straight set victories over UC Irvine as well. The only three-set match came on court three, where sophomore Martin Redlicki defeated Mertens 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.
“(The win) is a good start,” Di Giulio said. “We had a good showing indoors, so we were feeling confident as a team. It’s good to come back outdoors, get a win and we’re looking forward to playing Stanford and USC (in the next two weeks).”