ATHENS, Georgia — Maxime Cressy had five chances to close out his match against Texas A&M’s Valentin Vacherot.
He needed all of them.
The sophomore’s first four match points all came on Vacherot’s serve, but the Aggie freshman denied him each time, behind a flurry of service winners and forehand winners.
On Cressy’s next match point, he made sure Vacherot wouldn’t save another.
The Bruin crushed a serve his opponent returned well wide, and his teammates mobbed him as No. 5 UCLA men’s tennis (22-5) defeated No. 13 Texas A&M (21-7) 4-1 Thursday afternoon.
In UCLA’s previous two matches, only one singles point came from the bottom three courts, but against Texas A&M, two of their three points came courtesy of Cressy and senior Joe Di Giulio at courts four and six.
The 6-foot-7-inch Cressy frequently served and volleyed, and he said his game plan focused on varying his approaches and lobs to make Vacherot uncomfortable with a tall player constantly at the net.
“I tried to chip and charge a lot – chip sometimes low, very short, or long,” Cressy said. “He doesn’t like moving forward that much when the ball’s at his feet. I also returned very well – I had a great percentage of my returns which enabled me to break a lot.”
Before Cressy’s heroics, Di Giulio won his first match at No. 6 singles this season, 7-5, 6-1 over Texas A&M’s Aleksandre Bakshi.
The senior had multiple set points up 5-2 in the first set, but Bakshi came back to tie it.
That was when Di Giulio said he mentally refocused and pulled away for the victory.
“I could’ve won the first set a lot easier. He saved a few set points, got it back to 5-all and I kind of had to reset,” Di Giulio said. “I told myself I’m going to restart from here and I’m going to play my game. From that point on I played my style of tennis and cruised from there.”
The Bruins started off strong in doubles, as Di Giulio and junior Austin Rapp won 6-1 at court two.
Cressy and freshman Ben Goldberg then lost their match 6-4, leaving freshman Evan Zhu and junior Martin Redlicki as the last hope to clinch the doubles point.
Up 6-5 and on the no-ad point, Redlicki rocketed a return that Texas A&M’s Arthur Rinderknech volleyed past the baseline, giving UCLA the early lead.
“(Di Giulio and Rapp) really led us, winning and getting us on the board. But that’s a team at No. 1 doubles that’s really been so strong for us the whole year, winning big matches, and I think they’ve only lost a couple matches all year,” said coach Billy Martin. “I guess just from a coaching standpoint, to have them playing the last match here at this big venue, big tournament, is what you want.”
Zhu then claimed UCLA’s first singles point with a 6-4, 6-3 win over the No. 48-ranked Jordi Arconada. After playing at No. 3 singles the entire season, Zhu now has two consecutive wins at No. 2 singles.
The Bruins will now face host No. 12 Georgia on Saturday in the quarterfinals, after the Bulldogs rallied from a 3-2 deficit to defeat No. 4 USC 4-3. UCLA has defeated Georgia three times in the past two seasons, with two wins coming at the Pac-12/SEC Showdown and one at last year’s ITA National Indoor Championship.