Saturday, February 29

Men’s tennis holds high hopes despite falling short at USTA tournament

Over the course of UCLA men's tennis' final two preseason tournaments, senior Dennis Mkrtchian thinks the starting lineup will solidify itself. (Daily Bruin file photo)

This weekend several UCLA men’s tennis players participated in the Southern California USTA Pro Futures tournament at USC. They came out with a less-than-stellar performance.

Freshmen Austin Rapp and Martin Redlicki, and sophomores Gage Brymer and Joseph Di Giulio, had to participate in the qualifying rounds due to their low ATP rankings. None of the four were able to win their draw to qualify for the main draw.

“I didn’t play my best,” said Rapp, who lost in the second qualifying round to Mico Santiago 6-2, 6-1. “I changed my forehand. I was feeling better about it, but I guess it wasn’t 100 percent there. So I am going to work hard to get it ready for season.”

Redlicki felt that his lackluster performance could be attributed to the holiday break.

“For me, I live in Miami and I got back the night before the tournament, so I wasn’t quite adjusted to the time difference,” Redlicki said. “I was a little flat, but I got some good wins.”

Redlicki would end up losing to former UCLA player Adrien Puget in the third qualifying round 6-1, 6-7(3), 6-1. Brymer made it to the third qualifying round, only to lose to Santiago 6-1, 6-2. And last, Di Giulio lost to Markos Kalovelonis in the second qualifying round 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-4.

Sophomore Mackenzie McDonald qualified for the main draw merely on the basis of his ATP ranking of No. 640 in the world. His first match will be on Tuesday, and the tournament ends January 11.

The Southern California USTA Pro Futures tournament is not a UCLA-sponsored event, nor is it considered part of its fall or spring season. Instead, this tournament is a pro circuit competition, and has no affiliation with the NCAA. It just happens to feature several collegiate athletes.

The NCAA has a rule for both men’s and women’s tennis where the players can only participate in 25 UCLA-sponsored events during the year. Those events are the dual matches and the intercollegiate tournaments. Of the 25 events, only seven can be intercollegiate tournaments. Since this tournament was not sponsored by UCLA, it does not affect any of the players’ 25-event limits for the season. Thus, this tournament is treated as off-season work.

The Bruins have about two weeks left before they start the regular season. During these upcoming weeks, they have one more Futures tournament in Long Beach this weekend that several players will participate in. Then they have one more UCLA-sponsored tournament in Thousand Oaks that starts January 16.

All of this is in preparation for the spring season and to help set up the lineup.

“The lineup hasn’t been set, but I think there is a good feeling about where people are going to be,” said senior Dennis Mkrtchian, who did not participate in the USTA Pro Futures tournament. “There is still (two) more tournaments, so I think after that it is going to be more set. Overall I think the guys relatively know where they are to be in the lineup.”

Mkrtchian has high hopes for this season despite the underwhelming performance in the tournament.

“If we all do our part, compete hard, play hard, I think we can come out with the trophy in the end,” he said.

The Bruins are currently ranked No. 4 in the ITA Division I National Men’s Team Rankings.

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