Friday, February 21

Men’s tennis slips against Stanford 4-3 for first time in three seasons

UCLA men's tennis dropped their first match of the season to another top-10, undefeated team: the Stanford Cardinal. The Bruins next face UNLV this weekend. (Keila Mayberry/Daily Bruin staff)

The Bruins had won seven straight matches against the Cardinal over the past two seasons. That win streak was snapped Sunday.

No. 6 UCLA (6-1) fell to No. 10 Stanford (5-0), 4-3, in a battle between two undefeated top-10 teams.

“I’m not discouraged,” said coach Billy Martin. “Especially on the road, it’s never easy (to win).”

The match did not count toward conference standings, as it was the finale of the inaugural Dick Gould Stanford So/Cal Challenge.

Coming off a resounding 6-1 victory over No. 5 USC in the first match of the Challenge, Stanford carried its momentum into its bout against UCLA.

The Bruins, who had clinched all six of their previous doubles points, faced early deficits on all three doubles courts.

Freshman Bryce Pereira and junior Maxime Cressy, both known for their aggressive styles of play, lost their first doubles match of the season, 6-4, at court three.

“(Our opponents) were really aggressive, and they didn’t miss (their shots) at all,” Cressy said. “They just played the important points very well and were much tougher opponents than what we’re used to.”

With senior Austin Rapp and freshman Keegan Smith down 5-1 at court two, the Bruins were at risk of quickly conceding the doubles point. However, the duo staved off four match points, fighting their way back to a 6-6 tiebreak.

At court one, senior Martin Redlicki and sophomore Evan Zhu, last year’s Pac-12 Doubles Team of the Year, fought back from a 3-2 deficit to hold a 6-5 advantage. Yet the pair could not close the match, and the Cardinal forced a second tiebreak.

Despite the Bruins holding a 5-1 tiebreaker lead at court two, No. 101 Tom Fawcett and Axel Geller rallied to win the match 8-6 and the doubles point.

“I was a little bit unhappy with the doubles, quite honestly,” Martin said. “I thought we had a good chance … but we did not play extremely well at No. 2 and 3 (doubles).”

UCLA also started slowly in singles, losing four of their first six sets.

At court two, Zhu, who lost the first set 6-1 to Geller, played a more competitive set two but ultimately fell 7-6.

“(Geller’s) got a good serve, and he’s pretty aggressive from the baseline,” Zhu said. “He really tries to take advantage when you give him (a weaker ball).”

Following Zhu’s defeat, Redlicki scored the first point for the Bruins with a 6-0, 7-6 victory at court one over Fawcett, who appeared to fight off a back injury in the first set.

However, shortly after, Rapp fell 6-3, 6-3 at court six. Smith was subsequently defeated by Sameer Kumar at court three, 7-5, 6-4, giving the Bruins their first loss of the season.

“I think (doubles) affected (Smith’s) singles more than anybody,” Martin said. “It’s a good learning tool for him.”

Although the Bruins lost the match, senior Logan Staggs and Cressy won their matches at courts four and five, respectively, to pull UCLA to a close 4-3 defeat.

“(It’s) a valuable lesson for us to learn from for the next few matches,” Cressy said.

The team will look to rebound at home against UNLV next weekend.

Sports staff

Auh is currently a Sports staff writer for the men's golf and women's golf beats. He was previously a contributor on the men's tennis beat.

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