Sunday, May 31

Even with earliest exit in years, young men’s tennis team optimistic for future

UCLA men's tennis finished its season 19-6 and won the Pac-12 regular season title. The Bruins reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA championship but fell to Baylor. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)

The Bruins’ young lineup gained valuable experience this season.

No. 11 UCLA men’s tennis (19-6, 8-0 Pac-12) finished the season with a 15-2 stretch after opening the season 4-4. The Bruins finished undefeated in conference play, notching an 8-0 record to win the regular season title for the 37th time in program history.

However, they were unable to secure the Pac-12 tournament title after getting upset by California in the semifinals.

The Bruins dealt with multiple bumps in the road this season. Five of UCLA’s first eight matches were postponed and ultimately cancelled. The Bruins also faced multiple injuries to lineup mainstays, including sophomore Connor Hance, who missed the entire season after getting hurt in the opening match.

UCLA had little college tennis experience on its roster to start the season, returning only two starters. The roster boasted five sophomores and seven freshmen. Coach Billy Martin said the circumstances were tough, but that they will help create an even better team next season.

“Even though we lose a senior like Max (Cressy), we’re going to be a strong team,” Martin said. “With what these kids have gone through this season, they’ll be back out ready to fight again next season.”

Cressy and sophomore Keegan Smith both earned a spot in the NCAA singles championship, as well as the No. 2 seed in the NCAA doubles championship as a partnership. Freshman Govind Nanda was selected as an alternate for the singles championships.

Nanda was the only Bruin to participate in all 25 matches in both the singles and doubles lineups. Junior Ben Goldberg also played in all 25 matches, 24 of them in singles and an overlapping eight in doubles.

Goldberg said his game had improved with increased playing time this season.

“We played hard every match throughout the season,” Goldberg said. “I’ve been focusing and learning to build my mental game so I can come out strong for every match.”

Cressy was the only senior on the Bruins’ roster, and his undefeated season at doubles and a 15-3 record at No. 1 singles will leave UCLA with significant production to replace. However, the Bruins will return multiple freshmen – Patrick Zahraj, Mathew Tsolakyan and Eric Hahn – who received significant time at the bottom half of the lineup this season.

Cressy said he’s happy with his senior season and is looking forward to the opportunities he has ahead of him.

“It’s been great to fight and work hard for the team this season,” Cressy said. “I’m really excited to play the individual and doubles tournament before my season comes to an end, and the team has really been behind me in working toward that goal”

Smith, who was half of the Bruins undefeated No. 1 doubles team and a 15-2 record-holder at No. 2 singles, may or may not return to school. After a similarly successful season during the 2017-2018 campaign, sophomore Evan Zhu decided to leave UCLA early to pursue a professional career.

To end their season, the Bruins lost to No. 6 Baylor in the round of 16 in the NCAA team championships – their earliest tournament exit since 2015.


Maikis joined the Bruin as a freshman in 2018 and contributed until 2019. He was an assistant Sports editor in 2019 and contributed for the football, men's basketball, men's tennis, women's tennis and men's water polo beats.

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