As senior Ben Goldberg was playing in the deciding match on court four, coach Billy Martin was nowhere to be seen.
The coach – in his 27th year at the helm for No. 10 UCLA men’s tennis (3-0) – wasn’t on the court as Goldberg battled out a three-set victory over UCF’s (2-2) Bogdan Pavel to clinch the win for the Bruins and a berth in February’s ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championship.
Instead, Martin said he was elsewhere – still following every point but allowing his son, volunteer assistant coach Wil Martin, to coach the match.
“I was hiding a little bit,” Billy Martin said. “I still get extremely nervous and competitive in these matches. I think the last thing I can do is interject after Wil has been doing a good job, the last thing I can do is rock the boat, but trust me, I was as nervous as could be.”
On what would be the final point of the night, the score sat at 40-40 as Goldberg readied to serve out his second match point opportunity of the contest. The 25-shot rally went Goldberg’s way, giving him the 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 win over Pavel.
“I knew I had to win it there,” Goldberg said. “Adrenaline was going crazy, and I knew I was so close, and I could have won it the point before. I knew I had to win it right there, and I did.”
Goldberg had gotten off to an early lead, breaking Pavel’s serve at 5-3 in the first set to claim a 6-3 win in the opening frame. In the second, Goldberg had the opportunity to break again at 5-5, 30-30, but the senior missed out and dropped the set 7-5.
In the final set, Goldberg again had a chance to go up two breaks on Pavel, but the Knights’ No. 4 player managed to even the set score at 3-3.
“I could have stepped on him in the third,” Goldberg said. “But then you start second guessing, like ‘Shoot, I had him.’”
But Goldberg broke back to go up 4-3, and would hold onto the advantage to serve out the set on the sudden death deuce point.
With additional singles wins on court five from sophomore Patrick Zahraj and court two from sophomore Govind Nanda, Goldberg’s match served as the clinching fourth point for the Bruins, whose home-winning streak dates back to the 2015-2016 season.
On court one, junior Keegan Smith faced off against Gabriel Decamps in the top spot. Smith was able to hold early for a 1-0 lead, but began to trail Decamps, eventually losing the first set 6-2.
The junior said he became frustrated after trailing Decamps in the early going, at one point criticizing the match referee for his lack of attention to the match, and on another occasion, smacking a ball out of the court after losing a game.
“The ref was just not on his game,” Smith said. “He messed up a ton in doubles and he was just frustrating. Right after (I spoke to him), I felt like he was more focused. I mean, I was just pissed off, which isn’t surprising for me.”
Smith bounced back to a 6-4 win in the second set, and his match with Decamps headed into a third. After going neck and neck throughout the third, Decamps held Smith off for the last four games, winning the match 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
The Bruins had taken a 1-0 lead into singles play, after Smith and Nanda won their second straight dual doubles match, defeating Pavel and Trey Hilderbrand 6-4. Zahraj and his partner junior Bryce Pereira had a match point chance at 5-4 on court three, but were forced into a tiebreak at 6-6.
Zahraj and Pereira won the next seven out of eight points for the 7-6 (1) win and overall doubles point for the team.
“We split the doubles, and we had a good break to serve for the match,” Billy Martin said. “(But), we let them off the hook and my blood was boiling at that point. You can’t let those things happen, and those are things that can cost you the match.”
UCLA will see the court next with matches in the Bay Area, facing California and Stanford next weekend.