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Men’s tennis focuses on boosting confidence in doubles play

Junior Keegan Smith and his partner, sophomore Govind Nanda, occupy the No.1 doubles spot for UCLA men’s tennis. The duo has won all but one match so far, falling to California’s Paul Barretto and Can Kaya last weekend. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)

By Andreas Papoutsis

Feb. 6, 2020 1:25 a.m.

After losing half of an NCAA doubles champion team, court one’s duo seeks to find its stride in doubles play this season.

No. 16 UCLA men’s tennis (3-2) has only dropped one doubles point all season, but the team is still looking for ways to build its confidence through doubles play.

UCLA most recently surrendered the doubles point to then-No. 15 California in a 4-2 loss Friday – the first time the Bruins dropped a doubles point since its 4-1 loss to Baylor last season in the NCAA tournament Sweet 16.

“(Dropping the doubles point) happens sometimes … you might not be playing in a court that you’re used to,” said coach Billy Martin. “The other guys get off to a quick start and it sort of steamrolls.”

Junior Keegan Smith has posted a 48-17 doubles record prior to his third season at UCLA, and has gotten off to a 4-1 start this year.

He has spent the first part of this season adjusting to a new doubles partner. Last year, Smith paired up with then-senior Maxime Cressy, notching a 26-0 doubles record, including a perfect 18-0 record in dual match play. Smith and Cressy ended their season by winning the 2019 NCAA doubles title.

“My partner last year was super high energy,” Smith said. “So it was kind of easy for me to stay focused with him.”

This season, Smith and sophomore Govind Nanda are teaming up on court one. The duo has only dropped one doubles match this season, but Smith says there is still room to improve his focus.

“(Nanda) is more chilled out, so I probably need to get more pumped up to stay focused,” Smith said. “But (Nanda’s) fun and he’s a good guy so I think we match up pretty well.”

Smith said he hopes for his doubles pairing to not just win its own matches, but to create momentum and inspire confidence for the rest of the team.

“I think my doubles was best my freshman year, when we would never lose,” Smith said. “We’ll figure it out … we’ve been practicing pretty hard lately, so I’m sure that will pay off.”

The team most recently rallied from a doubles point deficit in last season’s home battle against Arizona State. Since then, UCLA has dropped its last three matches when conceding the doubles point.

Although Martin said the importance of the doubles point in college tennis cannot be ignored, he said his team will have to learn to still win matches without it.

“It’s hard enough to win three singles, nevermind four,” Martin said. “But it is what it is, you like winning the doubles point, but I try not to make it such a big deal because we have come back from losing the doubles point.”

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Andreas Papoutsis | Sports reporter
Papoutsis is currently a Sports reporter on the men's tennis beat. He was previously a contributor on the women's tennis beat.
Papoutsis is currently a Sports reporter on the men's tennis beat. He was previously a contributor on the women's tennis beat.
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