Saturday, July 20

Tennis freshman reflects on father’s coaching, career trajectory

Bryce Pereira has become key to UCLA men's tennis' doubles lineup this season. The freshman grew up playing tennis under his father and the two have developed an immeasurable bond over the sport. (Daniel Leibowitz/Daily Bruin staff)

Bryce Pereira has become key to UCLA men's tennis' doubles lineup this season. The freshman grew up playing tennis under his father and the two have developed an immeasurable bond over the sport. (Daniel Leibowitz/Daily Bruin staff)

When Bryce Pereira was born, Melwin Pereira placed a tennis ball in his newborn son’s hands.

I’ve never met anyone else that loves tennis more than him,” said the freshman of his father. “Whether it’s taking out the trash, doing homework or even eating, (everything) is related somehow to tennis.”

Unlike his son, Melwin Pereira was not introduced to the sport very early on. Raised in Singapore, he started playing tennis at 14 years old. Within three years, he worked his way up to Singapore’s national team, representing his country in the Davis Cup.

After his international youth career, Melwin Pereira went on to play collegiate tennis at Cal State Los Angeles before pursuing tennis coaching full time.

And there was no player he coached more extensively than his son.

Early in his youth career, Bryce Pereira was placed in the same tournaments as his sister Alexis, who is three years older. Melwin Pereira said competing against better competition rapidly improved his son’s tennis skills.

Among the experienced competitors, however, Bryce Pereira learned the most from his sister.

“Alexis beat up on me until I was probably about 9 or 10 years old, when I finally got my first set off of her,” he said. “But she would give me advice, and she was always supportive.”

Pereira attended Campbell Hall in North Hollywood for his freshman year of high school – the same school his sister went to before matriculating to Texas Christian University as a five-star tennis recruit.

Following his sister’s graduation, Pereira transferred to San Marino High for the rest of his high school career to play under his father, the head coach of the San Marino boys’ and girls’ tennis teams.

Initially, the pair struggled to leave their father-son relationship off the court.

“When Bryce was playing, my mind kept wandering to him, so in that aspect, I didn’t like it because I wanted to stay focused on the team,” Melwin Pereira said.

However, once Bryce Pereira convinced his father to treat him like a normal team member, he achieved unprecedented success.

Pereira became the first male athlete in history to win the CIF Southern Section doubles title for three consecutive seasons, clinching the final championship despite unusual circumstances.

“That last matchwas special(my doubles partner) and I only slept two to three hours because we had graduation,” he said. “They even putin the newspapers that we had grad night, so everyone knew that we weren’t sleeping. But, we played pretty solid doubles, andwhen it was over, it was a relief.”

In addition to the three CIF Southern Section doubles titles, Pereira won back-to-back CIF doubles championships at the Ojai Valley Junior Tournament. His specialty in doubles drew interest from UCLA, USC and TCU.

Pereira had connections with the head coaches of TCU and USC, so he had no interest in attending UCLA prior to his junior year.

“The TCU coach, David Roditi, was my coach for a few years at the National Training Center,” he said. “He’s like a second dad to me.”

Pereira and his family had an especially close relationship with Trojans head coach Peter Smith.

“I trained with (coach Smith’s sons), and my dad actually coached the youngest son for a little bit,” he said. “I wore a backwards USC hat (every match).”

He once again donned his signature USC hat during a CIF match his sophomore year, unaware that associate head coach Grant Chen, who did not sport UCLA gear, was among the crowd.

Chen was impressed by the sophomore, but he had to wait until Sept. 1 of Pereira’s junior year to reach out due to collegiate recruiting regulations.

“At that moment, I (thought), ‘I’ve got nothing to lose,’ and what was the harm in making a phone call?” Chen said.

Pereira was taken aback by Chen’s first pitch.

“It was so shocking, because I never thought about UCLA and coming here at all ever in my life,” Pereira said. “I knew nothing about the school.”

The continued efforts of Chen and coach Billy Martin, however, surpassed those of other schools, making his decision easier.

“The other coaches took for granted that they knew me, (while) Grant and Billy were so welcoming,” Pereira said. “They got to know my family and (even) my dogs … they knew everything.”

In the fall of his senior season, he committed to the Bruins, just over a year after Chen’s first phone call.

“What really caught my attention was his character,” Chen said. “The more time I spent with Bryce and his family, the more I felt that he was just one of those recruits you want to have somehow, some way.”

Ranked 34th in the nation at the time of his commitment, Pereira joined fellow freshmen Keegan Smith and Connor Hance, two close childhood friends, in UCLA’s 2017 recruiting class.

“I think the fact that a couple of his good friends, Smith and Hance, were coming here certainly helped us sway him to come to UCLA,” Martin said.

While Smith and Hance earned mainstay positions in UCLA’s singles lineup, Pereira slotted in at court three doubles with junior Maxime Cressy.

The pair has compiled a 17-5 dual record thus far, earning the most victories out of any UCLA doubles team this season.

“(Pereira) has fantastic, quick hands at the net, and he moves forward with his volleysvery well,” Martin said. “I knew coming in that he would be a great help for us in doubles.”

The freshman is an intergral part of the improved doubles lineup for the Bruins, who head into the NCAA championship as the No. 2 overall seed.

Meanwhile, Melwin Pereira remains at San Marino, coaching the Titans to an undefeated league record this season.

“I miss teaching him in high school,” he said. “(But) I’m really proud of him he’s very motivated andhe wants to get better.”

Although their paths have split for now, the Pereiras continue to pursue excellence in the sport they love.

Like father, like son.

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Sports reporter

Auh is currently a Sports reporter for the men's golf and women's golf beats. He was previously a contributor on the men's tennis beat.

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