In its three matches against Stanford last season, UCLA men’s tennis went undefeated, including a 4-0 sweep at the Pac-12 championships.
However, as the No. 6 Bruins (6-0) prepare for their first true road test of the season this weekend, coach Billy Martin is aware of the challenges a deep Cardinal team presents.
“I think (this is Stanford’s) best team in probably 15 years,” Martin said. “They’re really hungry tobeat up on us because we’ve had some pretty good luck against them recently.”
Aiming to extend its winning streak against its in-state rival, UCLA will travel to Palo Alto, California, to face No. 10 Stanford (3-0). The bout will be UCLA’s first match against a ranked opponent this season.
“We treated all of the (previous) matches as a steady preparation for this one,” said freshman Connor Hance.
In their six-game home stand to open the regular season, the Bruins only dropped two sets total. The team has performed well thus far, particularly in doubles play, winning all six possible doubles points. The Bruins conceded two of three doubles points to the Cardinal last season.
“Our doubles has been pretty sharp,” said senior Logan Staggs. “(Freshmen) Keegan (Smith) and Bryce (Pereira) have greatly improved our doubles.”
Like UCLA, Stanford commenced its season with a 7-0 sweep of George Washington. The Cardinal also won its ITA Kick-Off Weekend pool to qualify for the ITA Division I National Men’s Team Indoor Championship, defeating Oregon and No. 20 Tulane.
The Cardinal is led by Axel Geller and No. 101 Tom Fawcett. Against Tulane, Geller and Fawcett swept their opponents 6-0 at second doubles. Fawcett also defeated No. 21 Constantin Schmitz in straight sets at first singles to complete an overall 4-1 victory.
“The addition of (Geller) adds to (Stanford’s) depth,” Staggs said. “(Fawcett), their No. 1 player, has really improved his game.”
Stanford’s talent and home-court advantage pose the biggest test of the season, especially for the UCLA freshmen who have yet to play in a collegiate road match.
“I’ve seenthe most mature guys really lose it just because somebody from the crowd said something that gets under their skin,” Martin said. “It’s a learning process, and that’s why I think I always have a little bit more confidence with the upperclassmen on the road trips.“
The Bruins are relying on upperclassmen to mentally prepare the team for the large away crowd.
“We have a lot of experienced guys on the team, so we know kind of what to expect,” Hance said. “We need to keepa good mental focus during our matches and just not let the whole aura of the situation get the better of us.”