Any win against a top-10 opponent is a reason to celebrate.
A 4-0 sweep against the No. 6 team in the country, on the other hand, has UCLA men’s tennis coach Billy Martin feeling confident about his lineup heading into his team’s next dual match against Duke.
“I’m really excited, especially after the good win against Baylor. Up and down, the lineup played the best match of the year,” Martin said. “I’m hopeful that they’ll come out with that energy and enthusiasm against Duke. I feel like it’s a good game. We should win the match if we play within our level of skill.”
The No. 10 Bruins (9-4) will look to carry over the momentum when they host the unranked Blue Devils (8-5, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) on Thursday in their final match before spring break.
Senior Gage Brymer, ranked No. 11 in the country, turned in a straight-sets win over Baylor’s 15th-ranked Juan Benitez, which both he and Martin said was one of his best matches as a Bruin. It was Brymer’s first win over a top-20 opponent this season.
“I played really smart and didn’t make too many unforced errors,” Brymer said. “I played pretty safe and consistent and went for the shots I needed to go for – pretty textbook for how I want to play most of my matches.”
The Blue Devils’ lineup, on the other hand, is missing several key cogs. Their No. 1 singles player, Nicolas Alvarez, is ranked No. 17 in the nation but has yet to compete in a dual match as he recovers from a wrist injury. Meanwhile, Vincent Lin, who has competed at No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 singles this season, left the team in mid-February.
Saturday was also the first time in six dual matches that UCLA won the doubles point. The duo of freshman Evan Zhu and junior Martin Redlicki are 9-2 at court one so far this year, but the Bruins have struggled on courts two and three. Martin has fielded seven different teams at those two spots, but they have a combined 9-14 record.
Against the Bears, however, freshman Ben Goldberg and sophomore Maxime Cressy won their first doubles set in dual match play to clinch the doubles point. A large part of their success, according to Goldberg, was their ability to execute the serve and volley.
“(Cressy) has a huge serve and he can set me up well at the net,” Goldberg said. “Our first two matches we were trying to feel each other out but then after that we had great success together. We hang out a lot off the court and our chemistry off the court has been really good.”
Doubles play will again be crucial against Duke, which has won the doubles point in all but one of its victories. Martin said he believes his doubles teams, especially junior Austin Rapp and senior Gage Brymer at court two, will get better with time as the players adjust to each other’s styles of play.
“They haven’t played all year so I’m not surprised that they’re not gelled together yet,” Martin said. “They’ve played in years past but it’s been at least a year since they’ve played doubles together. I don’t doubt they’ll be playing a lot better a month from now.”
A wild card for the Bruins in singles and doubles is senior Joe Di Giulio, who has been out since mid-February with an arm injury. Martin said an MRI ruled out surgery for Di Giulio, but the senior will require more rest and could return later in the season.