A pair of Bruins emerged doubles champions in a break from ITA play.
No. 23 UCLA men’s tennis (5-4) sent five doubles teams to the Pacific Coast Men’s Doubles Championship at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club in La Jolla, California. Freshman Govind Nanda and assistant coach Rikus De Villiers teamed up and secured the No. 1 seed in the bottom half of the 128-team bracket.
“(Nanda) certainly stepped up in the big moments and took the pressure off me,” De Villiers said. “I’ve got a good amount of experience, even if I haven’t played in the last couple of years. I got to help him with some of the choices he made.”
The duo advanced past the round of 32 without stepping foot onto the court as their opponents withdrew due to injury. After moving past the round of 16, the Bruins encountered the brother duo of Tanner Smith and Colter Smith, the former being a current player at USC. Nanda and De Villiers claimed the victory, 8-6.
Nanda said that the I-formation – a doubles strategy in which the net player lines up in the middle of the net – was important to the success of the partnership when on serve.
“We don’t have the biggest serves,” Nanda said. “I-formation changes it up a little bit. It gives the returners a bit of a different look. You’ll get a couple free points, here and there, since they have to think about (where to hit the return).”
Nanda and De Villiers encountered the Stanford team of Jack Barber and William Genesen in the semifinal round and dispatched the Cardinal duo by a score of 6-1, 6-0.
The final saw Nanda and De Villiers face USC’s No. 1 doubles team of Brandon Holt and Riley Smith. After winning the first set via a tiebreak, the Bruins lost the second set 6-4. Playing a 10-point tiebreak in lieu of a third set, Nanda and De Villiers defeated the USC duo with a score of 10-4 and claimed the championship.
De Villiers said playing with Nanda this weekend could help him better coach the freshman in the future.
“There’s certain things during a dual match, or during practice, that I can talk about all I like. (But playing with Nanda) helps him see how I would like to see him playing doubles. Hopefully, he can take (that knowledge) and be the leader in whichever partnership he plays in.”
Junior Ben Goldberg and redshirt sophomore Connor Rapp were defeated 8-4 in the round of 16 by California’s Jacob Brumm and Yuta Kikuchi. Brumm and Kikuchi were defeated by UCLA’s No. 1 doubles team on Feb. 8 when they encountered the Bruins in dual-match play.
The only UCLA duo who entered the tournament unseeded was the pair of freshman Max Wild and Roscoe Bellamy. The two were defeated by the USC team of Jake Sands and Jake DeVine by a score of 8-2. Wild and Bellamy rebounded in the consolation bracket of the tournament, reaching the semifinals before bowing out to No. 7 seeds Henry Ji and Logan Smith.
“(In the consolation draw), we were more comfortable being with each other on the court,” Wild said. “There was a backdraw, and there were multiple matches that could have been played. We went out there and did really well. Just because we lost our first round, doesn’t mean we weren’t one of the better teams.”
The No. 8-seeded team of sophomore Bryce Pereira and freshman Patrick Zahraj reached the round of 32 before falling to a duo from Claremont McKenna College, 8-6. The freshman team of Eric Hahn and Mathew Tsolakyan had similar results.
After reaching the round of 32, the team was ousted by the San Diego State pair of Jan Kirchhoff and Ignacio Martinez by a score of 8-5.
The Bruins will take the court again Friday in Salt Lake City as they take on Utah in their Pac-12 conference opener.