For the third time in four years, the Bruins are at the top of the podium.
No. 2 UCLA men’s tennis took down No. 16 California 4-1 in a dogfight Saturday evening to win the Pac-12 tournament championship in Ojai, California.
“I’m very proud to take that title each and every year that we have a chance to win it,” said coach Billy Martin. “I think it just means that we’ve had a great year and things are doing really well. I think with the prestige of the Pac-12 in all sports and especially in men’s tennis, it’s something that we hold pretty high.”
The Bruins (21-2, 8-0 Pac-12) are now both the Pac-12 tournament and regular season champions for the first time since the 2013 season.
“Our four goals are: undefeated at home, Pac-12 regular season, Pac-12 tournament and then hopefully NCAA championship,” Martin said. “So we’ve got the first three goals that we’ve attained and we’re shooting for the stars and trying to stay focused still on trying to give it a shot for the NCAAs.”
UCLA started the match off hot with a strong showing in doubles – a sharp turnaround from the team’s recent struggles.
The No. 5 duo of sophomore Martin Redlicki and junior Mackie McDonald dispatched California’s Florian Lakat and Filip Bergevi 6-1.
“We both knew exactly what we had to do,” Redlicki said. “When we played them at home we went up 4-0, started off really strong and we just knew we were doing that by making a ton of balls, making them play and just executing and that’s what we did today. We didn’t let up.”
Freshman Max Cressy and sophomore Austin Rapp followed suit with a 6-3 victory over California’s Mads Engsted and J.T. Nishimura to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead over the Bears.
In singles, UCLA showed their mental strength. The team fought back after four of the six first sets were taken by California.
“This team is really showing that they will not be denied and tonight was a perfect example of that,” Martin said. “And not just one or two guys, but like three or four guys that were down-and-out that really just fought their hearts out and got back into the match and came back and won. That was something that made me very proud as their coach.”
Junior Joseph Di Giulio showed some grit in his match on court 6. After losing his first set 3-6 and being down 2-4 in the second, Di Giulio pounced back for a 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-3 win to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead.
“It was a battle,” Di Giulio said. “First set, I wasn’t playing my best tennis and then I went down pretty big in the second and I just kept battling. I knew that I could get back into it – it was just a few points here and there and it went my way. It was close the entire time but just kept fighting.”
McDonald put the dagger in the heart when he beat Lakat 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 to clinch the match.
One notable injury occurred on court four when Senior Karue Sell appeared to have pain in his ankle. According to Martin, Sell twisted his ankle during the Bruin’s last dual-match against the Trojans but said it should be fine after a few days rest.