The Bruins are finding their groove.
No. 4 UCLA men’s tennis (19-2, 4-0 Pac-12) has not lost in over a month, in part due to the improved consistency of players throughout its lineup.
“I think we’ve matured just as much mentally as we have tenniswise,” said coach Billy Martin.
Since their loss to No. 1 Wake Forest in the championship match of ITA indoor nationals, UCLA has rattled off eight straight victories, including wins against five ranked opponents.
“We’ve been growing as a team this entire season, and we have been (producing) good results,” said freshman Connor Hance.
The team has not made any significant lineup changes during the season except for the midseason insertion of Hance at court six singles.
Hance, who permanently replaced senior Austin Rapp after the team’s nonconference loss at Stanford, has compiled an 11-3 dual match record this season. At the ITA indoor nationals, the freshman notched key victories against No. 7 Illinois and No. 2 Ohio State.
“I really believe (Hance) can get the job done,” said junior Maxime Cressy. “He’s been very consistent, and he has been winning a lot of matches.”
Other Bruins have improved upon their early-season performances. After conceding two dual matches in nonconference play, senior Martin Redlicki has been undefeated against Pac-12 opponents and has regained his No. 1 singles ranking.
Freshman Keegan Smith, who dropped the first road matches of his career in both singles and doubles against Stanford, rebounded on Friday’s rematch with singles and doubles victories. Smith has won seven-straight singles dual-match points, all in straight sets.
“(Smith) was distraught after losing the doubles point (at Palo Alto) and didn’t refocus for singles,” Martin said. “He certainly has a lot more match experience under his belt now.”
UCLA’s enhanced focus on doubles play has also contributed to its strong record this season. The team has clinched over 80 percent of its doubles points thus far despite dropping recent points against No. 17 Oklahoma and No. 49 Washington.
“We have been gaining a lot of confidence in doubles and winning matches, especially at (ITA indoors),” Cressy said. “It has been an advantage for us (lately).”
The Bruins will play their next three matches on the road before returning to the Los Angeles Tennis Center for their final home match of the season. With a victory at that match, the team would finish with an undefeated home record for the third straight year.