Men’s tennis prepares for Georgia heat at NCAA Tournament
May. 17, 2017 12:14 am
Half of the Pac-12 men’s tennis teams hail from schools in California. The conference’s annual tournament is held in Ojai, a nearly 90-minute drive from Westwood.
So with a favorable travel schedule this season, UCLA hasn’t had to leave the state since it played at the ITA Division I National Men’s Team Indoor Championship in Virginia mid-February.
That’s all changed, as the Bruins are now at the University of Georgia to participate in the remaining rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
With the Georgia weather averaging around 90 degrees the week of the tournament, the team knows that extra conditioning is required to stay at the top of their physical peak.
“One of the biggest things is the weather and the humidity as it gets pretty tough,” said senior Joe Di Giulio. “We’ve been training pretty tough getting extra practices in and extra reps at the gym.”
Coach Billy Martin took several measures – such as having his players practice in spacesuit tops – in order to get his team ready for the humid weather.
“I thought we did a good job in Los Angeles – we have a tradition where we get out our spacesuit tops and make the guys sweat a ton more,” Martin said. “That helped acclimate the guys and made them kind of unhappy, but it helped them get a little bit used to sweating more. I’ve been through this before so I think we are somewhat adjusted to the weather.”
The team flew to Atlanta on Monday morning and got in a quick hitting session in the afternoon. The team then held two additional practices Tuesday.
Junior co-captain Austin Rapp said the team knows that it needs to make all the adjustments to being used to the Georgia courts and weather in order to have success in the tournament.
“We just need to do everything that we already do. We need to make sure we stay hydrated and make sure that we do everything we can to prepare for our game Thursday,” Rapp said. “We need to adjust to the conditions, like the weather, and the courts’ surroundings.”
Some of the veterans of the team like Di Giulio understand the struggle of adjusting to the pressure of playing in front of larger crowds and handling the emotions of the NCAA Tournament. The senior is also one of several players who isn’t completely unfamiliar to the courts in Athens, Georgia.
“In my personal case, I’ve played here a couple times so I’m somewhat used to it,” Di Giulio said. “Speed and how the ball bounces is something that we need to adjust to.”
The Bruins will have until Thursday to finish acclimating to the hot weather and courts, when they face the Texas A&M Aggies in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.