The Bruins may face a familiar challenge in the Sweet 16.
Due to rain, No. 2-seeded UCLA men’s tennis (28-2, 8-0 Pac-12) has been preparing on the indoor courts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s campus for Friday’s matchup against No-15 seeded Michigan (22-5, 8-2 Big Ten).
The Bruins had similar issues with weather in last year’s NCAA tournament, fighting through a five-hour rain delay before falling in the quarterfinals.
If this year’s rainy conditions continue, coach Billy Martin said UCLA could play its round of 16 match indoors.
“I think we’re good to go whether its indoors or outdoors,” Martin said. “It’s the same scenario for everybody else. We played well indoors earlier in the year, so I’m not particularly worried about it.”
The Bruins reached the finals of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association indoor championships back in February for the first time since 2004, but fell to No. 1 Wake Forest.
Sophomore Evan Zhu said the Bruins have enough experience to be ready for any conditions.
“We knew there might be some rain, so I think we’re all pretty prepared,” Zhu said. “It shouldn’t be a disadvantage for us.”
The Wolverines enter the round of 16 having swept Cleveland State and Notre Dame in the first two rounds. This mark’s Michigan’s fifth Sweet 16 appearance in program history and its first since 2008. UCLA never lost to Michigan, with its most recent victory coming in 1989.
Though the teams have not met in more than 20 years, Martin said the Bruins know the Michigan lineup and that he is familiar with Michigan’s coach Adam Steinberg.
“I know their coach and a lot of our younger guys played some of their younger guys, so we’re expecting a real battle, no doubt about it,” Martin said.
The Wolverines have two ranked singles players – No. 17 Alex Knight and No. 47 Runhao Hua. Both qualified for the NCAA individual championships in singles and as a pair in doubles. Hua and Knight have notched 22 and 25 singles wins on the year, respectively.
“They’re never going to give it to us,” said junior Maxime Cressy. “Any team we play, we’re going to have to be ready.”
If UCLA defeats Michigan, it will either face No. 7-seeded North Carolina or No. 10-seeded USC. The Bruins are 3-0 against the Trojans this season, and have not faced the Tarheels since 2016, when the Bruins fell 4-2.
“A little bit of luck is involved in each and every one of these matches,” Martin said. “There’s no doubt we could lose (against Michigan), we could lose in the quarters, (or) we could lose in the semis. I don’t look ahead too far and I don’t look back.”