After the sun had set and the air had cooled, Govind Nanda was still playing.
The freshman’s 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 singles victory propelled No. 7 UCLA men’s tennis (3-0) to a 4-2 victory over California (2-3) on Friday at the Los Angeles Tennis Center.
The Bruins relied on singles wins from Nanda, senior Maxime Cressy, sophomore Keegan Smith, and junior Ben Goldberg to win the best-of-seven bout.
In doubles, after a quick 6-0 victory from Cressy and Smith on court one, Nanda and Goldberg fell on court two 6-3 after fighting an uphill battle that started when Goldberg double-faulted on break point down 2-1.
The deciding match for the doubles point was on court three, pitting UCLA freshman Patrick Zahraj and sophomore Bryce Pereira against Cal’s Jack Molloy and Mert Zincirli.
After Pereira executed a drop volley for the Bruins to hold at 5-4, Golden Bear Zincirli served an efficient game to put Cal back in the lead at 6-5. With Pereira serving at 30-all, Zincirli whipped a crosscourt forehand that Pereira couldn’t catch up to at the net.
Down 40-30, a serve up the tee saved one match point for Pereira, but when another Zincirli forehand spun past Zahraj and dropped in, Cal took the match, and the doubles point.
Pereira said he liked playing in the big moments with all of his teammates watching, even with the pressure of deciding the doubles point.
“It’s a pretty fun experience because it’s so different,” Pereira said. “Especially when you have your team behind you cheering you on, it’s make-or-break.”
Coach Billy Martin said lineup changes are still possible with the doubles teams, but the way the duos are playing needs to change.
“We’re still going through the challenge of what teams to play, honestly,” Martin said. “Overall, we’ve got to absolutely become more aggressive in doubles, we’re too passive with our play.”
Singles play commenced with the Bruins needing to secure four of the six matches to emerge victorious.
The first match to finish was Smith playing No. 2 singles, besting Jacob Brumm 6-3, 6-1. Smith won eight of the last nine games, featuring an overpowering serve and forehand. Next to finish was No. 5 singles freshman Mathew Tsolakyan, who was outhit by Bjorn Hoffmann to the tune of a 6-3, 6-2 loss.
With the Bruins trailing 2-1, Goldberg was the next to wrap up his match. Overcoming getting his serve broken early in both sets, he rallied for a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Ben Draper.
Goldberg gave credit to Martin for his coaching during the match and said energy was a big part of his play.
“It was kind of hard to get the groove going, but I stuck with it,” Goldberg said. “Coach (Martin) gave me a good adjustment to think about and I just rolled with it. I had really good energy once I started rolling, and once I started feeling good, everything was feeling easy after that.”
Martin said Goldberg played well and that his win was crucial to pulling out the match.
“It was a great win for Ben Goldberg at No. 6 (singles), huge for us,” Martin said. “And a great win for him, something that I’m hoping will be something that will give him a lot of confidence.”
After, Cressy broke a 2-2 tie at No. 1 singles by neutralizing the heavy topspin passing shots of Paul Barretto. Ultimately, Cressy won eight of the final nine games to finish the match 6-4, 6-1.
With UCLA leading 3-2 and the score knotted at 6-3, 2-6, 1-1, it was Nanda’s turn to take the stage.
For a match that did not feature the firepower of aces and winners from courts one and two, Nanda said it came down to the consistency and placement of his forehand in bad conditions.
“I was hitting my forehand well for a lot of the match,” Nanda said. “(Molloy) was kind of giving no pace for a lot of the match, and in the cold weather it’s hard to create pace, so I was struggling with that for a little bit, but I did a good job in the key moments of hitting my forehand.”
Zahraj played an unfinished match at singles No. 4 against Yuta Kikuchi, ending at 4-6, 6-4, 3-3.
The Bruins will travel east to take on Illinois on Wednesday, before competing in the ITA indoor championship in Chicago over the weekend.