This weekend offers one more opportunity for the members of UCLA men’s tennis to make a play for spots in the regular season lineup.
The Bruins will compete in the Sherwood Collegiate Cup, the last tournament prior to UCLA’s dual match openers against George Washington University and Grand Canyon University on Thursday. The team will no longer be sending players to the National Collegiate Tennis Classic this weekend and will only compete at the Sherwood Collegiate Cup.
Coach Billy Martin emphasized the importance of the tournament in solidifying the lineups for the first dual matches following the long holiday break.
“I haven’t really seen the guys compete for over five weeks now,” Martin said. “I think I certainly had a really good idea of how everybody was playing in comparison to each other before the dead week and finals week. So this’ll give me a good opportunity to see where everyone is as far as their playing and their conditioning.”
The long holiday didn’t seem to concern freshman Keegan Smith, who said the break was actually advantageous.
“I think that it positively affected my game,” Smith said. “I got to go back to my coaches from when I was younger and hit with them. I didn’t have classes so I was pretty much just playing tennis all day.”
Smith posted a 12-3 preseason record and won his first tournament championship at the Jack Kramer Club Collegiate Invitational on Nov. 5, 2017. The rookie’s fall performance launched him onto the Oracle/ITA Division I Men’s National Singles Rankings at No. 108.
Most of the Bruins will be competing at the Sherwood Cup in singles, doubles or both. Sherwood brings in some of the nation’s top players from Baylor, USC and Stanford, potentially providing a preview of the competition this season.
The singles seeding of the Sherwood Cup has junior Maxime Cressy at No. 8, Smith at No. 6 and sophomore Evan Zhu at No. 5. For doubles, UCLA’s senior Austin Rapp and Smith are the No. 2 seed.
After an intensive fall, the Bruins aim to start strong early with the Sherwood Cup. Both freshman Bryce Pereira and Smith expressed a combination of excitement and nerves about the start of their collegiate tennis careers.
“College tennis is a really exciting thing – it’s like nothing else,” Pereira said. “I think these first few matches will be a good gauge in how we’ll handle these nerves.”
When asked about the goals for the season, Martin noted how the goals for 2018 are pretty consistent with prior years: win NCAA championships, win Pac-12 championships and win dual matches.
“I want us to be undefeated at home,” Martin said. “I don’t want anybody ever to feel good coming in to play UCLA at home.”