It wasn’t a pretty win, but the UCLA men’s tennis team will take it, especially over one of last year’s Pac-12 title champs.
Saturday’s dual match between the No. 4 Bruins and the Stanford Cardinal in NorCal ended in a 4-3 victory for the visitors.
“Bottom line is we were a little intimidated, and we did not play good tennis,” said coach Billy Martin. “But we kept our heads and won the match – that was the important thing. We’ve got to do a better job in our preparation as far as how we are mentally and playing away from home.”
Playing at Stanford in the Taube Tennis Center has been a struggle for the Bruins recently because of the large crowds and daunting atmosphere. Saturday was no exception.
“For some reason we always have a little bit of trouble playing here at Stanford,” said senior Karue Sell. “I don’t think in my four years we’ve ever beaten them here very handily. It’s always been like 4-3, 4-2, or something like that.”
The Bruins came out flat in doubles, dropping two of the three matches and giving the Cardinal an early 1-0 lead.
“They are a good team. I mean, I knew this would be a tough match but to go out there and play not even near our ability makes it almost no contest,” Martin said. “To beat a team like that (in doubles), we’ve got to play at least 85, 90 percent of our level and we didn’t even come close in the doubles.”
Despite a slow start, the Bruins fought back in singles, winning four of the six matches to get the victory. Sell, junior Mackie McDonald and sophomore Logan Staggs all had straight-set victories while sophomore Martin Redlicki won in three.
McDonald’s victory on court one over No. 4 Tom Fawcett was especially notable. After cruising through the first set, McDonald struggled with his serve in the second, giving Fawcett a chance to push it to a third set, he said. At 6-5, Fawcett was serving to take it to tie-breaker, but he double-faulted on match point, giving McDonald the 6-3, 7-5 win.
“I’ve played this guy a couple of times. I really know how to go out there and compete against him and I executed pretty well today, especially in the first (set),” McDonald said. “I think his game kinda suits into mine so it’s pretty instinctual tennis when I go out there to play him.”
McDonald, the nation’s No. 19 singles player, said he was particularly happy to win because of how high Fawcett was ranked. Although the new singles ranking won’t come out for another week and a half, this win will likely propel McDonald a few spots higher. McDonald started the season unranked because he did not play in any ITA events in the fall.
Missing from the lineup in both doubles and singles was Austin Rapp. The sophomore sprained his ankle in the semifinals of the ITA Division I National Men’s Team Indoor Championship earlier in February. His return is tentative but he has been practicing with the team.
With the win, the Bruins improve to 9-2 and will host their crosstown rivals, No. 13 USC Trojans, Tuesday.
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