UCLA men’s tennis technically hosted the match, but they didn’t feel at home.
Construction at the Los Angeles Tennis Center forced the Bruins to trek up the hill to the Sunset Canyon Recreational Center tennis courts for the first time this season for their dual match against UC San Diego.
In the end, the venue change didn’t really affect the outcome – No. 4 UCLA (19-2, 6-0 Pac-12) secured a 7-0 shutout over the Tritons (13-8).
“We weren’t feeling really comfortable, but that’s why we scheduled this match,” said coach Billy Martin. “I think it was important that we did that and I think that every day at practice will get us a little more acquainted to our new home.”
Sunset Rec will be the Bruins’ home for much of next year, which is why Martin said he rested No. 8 junior Mackie McDonald along with No. 86 senior Karue Sell and tried to get some of the lower lineup players more action on the renovated courts.
Freshman Maxime Cressy, who usually only plays doubles in dual matches, made his first singles appearance at court six, where he defeated UCSD’s Riku Hashiyada in straight sets 6-2, 6-1.
“I felt really excited at first, but during the first few games I had a hard time moving my feet and I felt really stressed out,” Cressy said. “After the match was tied two-all, I started laughing a little and smiling. I just ended up being really relaxed and I played so much better the rest of the match.”
With McDonald out, No. 45 sophomore Martin Redlicki filled in at the top of the lineup. Redlicki cruised through the first set, but struggled with the pace of the groundstrokes from his opponent, UCSD’s Eric Tseng, hitting multiple shots into the net en route to losing the second set. In a third-set super tiebreaker, he saved a match point before eventually triumphing over Tseng 6-3, 3-6, 1-0 (13-11).
“Maybe it’s just in my head, but I personally think these courts are a little bit faster,” Redlicki said. “We’ve been practicing here since we got back from Arizona and Utah, which is realistically only three days. We’re obviously gonna be practicing here every day now, so we’ll be ready to go (for the NCAA Tournament).”
Battle for Los Angeles and the Pac-12
One match will decide Pac-12 men’s tennis supremacy this season, as UCLA men’s tennis will travel to USC on Sunday for a rare doubleheader with the women’s teams. No. 9 USC men’s tennis (15-4, 5-1) is one match behind UCLA in the conference standings, with the winner of the dual match securing the number one seed in the Pac-12 tournament the following week.
The Bruins defeated the Trojans 5-2 behind singles victories by McDonald, Sell, and juniors Gage Brymer and Joseph Di Giulio in their nonconference bout earlier this season. Home court and crowd advantage was a force at the Los Angeles Tennis Center, and sophomore Austin Rapp said he knows the Trojans will return the favor.
“I’m expecting them to come at us – their crowd and everything will be pretty hostile because we were pretty hostile when they came here,” Rapp said. “We’re ready for it, we know it’s coming, and we’re not gonna be taken off guard or anything.”
Doubles again will be the key for UCLA as it take on its rival. USC has six singles players ranked in the top 125, led by No. 19 Max de Vroome, No. 43 Nick Crystal and No. 55 Logan Smith. Although McDonald and Redlicki lost their doubles match, the sophomore said he’s confident they can pull out a win this time around.
“We’ve beaten them before, so we know we can win even though it’s at their place,” Redlicki said. “We have to go in with a clean slate and just execute the way we have been. Doubles is pretty straightforward in terms of what you have to do, so we just need to execute what we’ve been working on.”