Senior Martin Redlicki slowly paced toward center court to congratulate his overjoyed opponent.
The No. 1 singles player in the nation had just fallen in three sets to unranked Alexandr Cozbinov on Saturday, marking the biggest upset of the Bruins’ season.
No. 7 UCLA defeated UNLV 5-2 in a competitive match where the Bruins’ top two singles players were taken to three sets. No. 107 freshman Keegan Smith escaped with a victory, but Redlicki suffered his first singles dual match loss of the season.
“It’s a tough position for him to be in since he’s No. 1 in the country,” said sophomore Ben Goldberg. “(Cozbinov) played amazing.”
After losing the first set 6-3, Redlicki rebounded with a 6-4 victory in set two and appeared to have momentum heading into the deciding set.
Meanwhile, Smith, who won his first set 6-3, had an opportunity to clinch the match in the second-set tiebreaker. Despite fighting back from a 6-0 deficit, Smith conceded the tiebreaker 7-4.
“(My opponent) started playing much better in the second set,” Smith said. “I just had to play my game and focus. I was getting a little tired, but I just had to fight that mentally.”
Smith took the third set 6-4, and the match. Shortly after, however, Redlicki dropped his final set 6-3.
“(Redlicki) played a kid who was just hotter than a pistol,” said coach Billy Martin. “I thought (Redlicki) played pretty well … that’s by far the best tennis I’ve ever seen (his opponent) play.”
The Bruins also dropped their second straight doubles point of the season. Redlicki and sophomore Evan Zhu took care of business at court one, defeating their opponents 6-3.
Junior Maxime Cressy and freshman Bryce Pereira initially held a 4-3 lead at court three. However, the duo dropped three consecutive games in part due to unforced errors to lose its second straight doubles set 6-4.
The doubles point would be determined at court two, with Goldberg and senior Austin Rapp fighting back from an initial 1-3 deficit to force a tiebreak.
Goldberg was notified two hours prior to the match that he would replace Smith in doubles. Smith cited NCAA rules as the reason for the switch.
“There’s a 25 maximum amount of matches that you can play for the NCAAs,” Smith said. “(The coaches) did not want me to sit out a big match, like against Oklahoma.”
Goldberg and Rapp initially took a 3-1 tiebreaker lead; however, a controversial UNLV shot on the following point was ruled inbounds. The pair could not rebound from the play, losing 3 straight points to concede the tiebreaker 7-4 and the doubles point to the Rebels.
“(The call) 100 percent changed the momentum,” Goldberg said. “But obviously you have to come back again and play the next point.”
The Bruins made up ground in singles, winning five of the first six sets.
At courts four through six, No. 58 senior Logan Staggs (6-3, 7-6), Cressy (7-5, 6-3), and freshman Connor Hance (6-4, 6-0) all emerged victorious, earning crucial singles points.
Zhu clinched the match for UCLA off an unreachable drop shot, winning 6-3, 6-4.
Martin maintains confidence that his No. 1 singles player will bounce back from the tough defeat.
“(Redlicki’s) a great team captain and he’s certainly disappointed,” Martin said. “But, the team won, so that’s ultimately the most important thing to him.”