The 58th Annual Southern California Intercollegiate Championships final pitted two UCLA players against each other – sophomore Gage Brymer and senior Dennis Mkrtchian have been teammates for over a year now, and even play doubles together every now and then.
It was a hard-fought match filled with emotion from both players and although Mkrtchian would go on to defeat Brymer, they showed camaraderie as teammates – they were teammates, win or lose.
“You just have to be competitive on the court, and what happens on the court stays on the court,” Mkrtchian said. “We are teammates and we (are) going to be there for each other after the match and for the rest of the season.”
Coach Billy Martin added how proud of his players he was, saying, “I thought the guys handled it well and were really professional.”
The first set was close with both players staying on serve all the way to the tie breaker. Despite this, Brymer started to struggle with Mkrtchian’s serve towards the end of the set and this continued for the rest of the match.
“My serve is one of my biggest weapons,” Mkrtchian said. When asked just how fast his first serve is, Mkrtchian said that it was clocked at 130 mph, which is considered competitive when compared to top ATP players.
Brymer was able to stay in the set with strong consistent strokes, waiting for Mkrtchian to make mistakes. However, it was in the tie breaker when Brymer made a couple of mistakes and Mkrtchian was able to take the first set 7-6(5).
The second set was still very close, but Brymer continued to struggle with Mkrtchian’s serve throughout the set.
Toward the end of the set, Mkrtchian was able to break Brymer to lead 5-3. At this point Brymer threw his racquet to the ground, which cost him a point in the next game giving Mkrtchian a 15-0 lead. It looked for a moment like Mkrtchian was going to win the match after winning the next point, now leading 30-0. Brymer was starting to look defeated, but he was able to win a couple of the next points to force a 40-all. Brymer would end up winning that game, breaking Mkrtchian, making the set score 5-4.
Mkrtchian would end up staying on serve and then breaking Brymer to win the match 7-6(5), 7-5. Both Bruins at the end of the match met at the net with a strong supportive embrace showing that although they were opponents in the tournament, they are still teammates.
Freshmen Austin Rapp and Martin Redlicki also demonstrated teamwork, winning the doubles draw against BYU’s freshman David Ball and sophomore Jacob Sullivan 8-3. The Bruins had a strong showing in this tournament, winning both men’s singles and doubles for the second year in a row.
Being the tournament’s 58th iteration, it has a long and interesting history that features winners like tennis legends Brad Gilbert and Arthur Ashe Jr., the namesake of the Arthur Ashe UCLA Wellness Center.
“(It was) definitely an honor,” Mkrtchian said after winning the tournament. “I was looking at the list of champions and I was pretty impressed with the list. I am very happy to have won.”
Compiled by Korbin Placet, Bruin Sports contributor.