The Bruins has a new face on the courts this fall, and his process of transitioning to collegiate tennis is just beginning.
Freshman Eric Hahn joined UCLA men’s tennis this fall, and he said he has been working hard to adjust from playing USTA and ITF Junior Circuit tennis.
After compiling a 6-3 record in three singles tournaments and a 1-2 record in two doubles tournaments, Hahn said he is starting to understand what it takes to play at such a high level.
“The balls are a lot heavier, a lot more powerful,” Hahn said. “It’s a lot harder, whereas in junior tennis you can get away with not going up against those kinds of players.”
Four of Hahn’s six singles wins came against upperclassmen. However, two of his three singles losses were to USC’s Daniel Cukierman.
“He really has shown some great endurance against the older players, getting wins against guys that are two, three, four years older than him,” said coach Billy Martin. “But he’s still got a long way to go. He lost twice to the USC player (Cukierman) who’s 23 years old, who was just that much more physical with him.”
Martin also said he saw Hahn test his abilities playing doubles in two tournaments, with a different partner in each appearance.
At the ITA regionals in Malibu, California, Hahn played with sophomore Connor Hance, who returned to fall competition after posting an 18-8 singles record and a 3-2 doubles record in his freshman campaign. The duo split a pair of matches, winning 8-0 in the second round and losing 8-1 in the third after a bye in the first round. In the Jack Kramer Fall Invitational from Nov. 1 to Nov. 4, Hahn played alongside fellow freshman Mathew Tsolakyan, dropping their only match 6-8.
“I’ve played with multiple partners in the past,” Hahn said. “I think it’s good to play with different styles of play because you can adjust quickly to them.”
Martin said the two partners had different effects on Hahn’s performance.
“It’s always fun to see the chemistry and the strengths of one partner compared to the other partner,” Martin said. “Both of the pairings did well. (Hahn) certainly seemed more comfortable playing with (Tsolakyan), who he has played with in the past.”
Besides the physicality and search for a doubles partner, there is one more adjustment for Hahn that will carry over into the spring season. In juniors competition, Hahn could decide whether he was going to play singles or doubles as well as who his partner would be. Now, with the team lineup not solidified, Hahn said he has to first work for his position on the team before worrying about facing any opponents.
“Yeah, it’s different,” Hahn said. “I’m actually fighting for a spot, and it’s really tricky because during my junior tennis years, I was free to go out there and compete. Now, I have to really try hard to impress the coaches.”
However, Martin said he isn’t worried for Hahn.
“He’s really done a very, very good job,” Martin said. “I know as hard as he works, he’s going to get better and better every month. This is going to be a great experience for him this year, and I expect him to do some great things for UCLA in the future.”