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Men’s tennis win provides confidence boost going into ITA indoor championship

Sophomore Eric Hahn notched his first singles win of UCLA men’s tennis’ 2020 campaign, after previously falling to both then-No. 15 California and then-No. 11 Stanford. (Xuxin Zhang/Daily Bruin)

By Nico Edgar

Feb. 12, 2020 12:59 a.m.

This post was updated Feb. 12 at 10:37 p.m.

The Bruins kicked off their indoor season with a victory.

No. 16 UCLA men’s tennis (4-2) knocked off Western Michigan (5-5) 7-0 at the Midtown Athletic Club in Chicago on Tuesday, rebounding from a pair of 2-4 losses against No. 8 Stanford and No. 15 California and snapping its two-match losing streak. The team will continue its indoor play at the ITA indoor championship from Friday to Monday.

Coach Billy Martin said the first match on indoor courts is always a large adjustment from Los Angeles Tennis Center’s outdoor courts.

“It’s always a shock,” Martin said. “We practiced for three days but until you get into a match you don’t realize how different of a game it is, but we adjusted well and are glad that we came away with a win.”

Senior Ben Goldberg clinched the victory for the Bruins with a 6-4, 6-3 defeat of WMU’s Jack Randall. It was his second win-clinching victory of the season, with the other coming at the ITA Kickoff Weekend finals against Central Florida last month.

Sophomore Govind Nanda, who came into the match ranked No. 10 in singles nationally, the highest ranking of his college career, continued his early-season success, defeating No. 124 Kennosuke Nouchi 6-1, 6-2.

It was Nanda’s sixth win this season against a ranked opponent and the sophomore sports an overall 6-0 record in dual-match singles play following a 17-5 record last season.

Junior Keegan Smith, ranked No. 6 nationally, defeated WMU’s Jannik Opitz 6-4, 6-7 (4), 1-0 (2). After splitting the first two sets, Smith took down Opitz in a match-deciding 10-point tiebreaker.

Freshman Drew Baird also notched a win after losses in three of his previous four singles appearances, beating WMU’s Peter Kuszynski 6-4, 7-6 (1).

Martin said Smith’s and Baird’s big serves helped them secure the tiebreaks.

“They handled it well and are well-suited for the indoor courts because of their big serves that really play up in these conditions,” Martin said. “Indoors, big serves definitely have an advantage in tiebreaks.”

Baird had a chance to notch his second doubles victory of the season as he held a 6-5 lead with his partner – redshirt junior Connor Rapp – but their match went unfinished with Nanda and Smith clinching the doubles point on court one.

For the duo of Nanda and Smith, the 7-5 victory against Kuszynski and Opitz was their fifth win in six doubles matches for the season.

Sophomore Eric Hahn, penciled into the lineup at the six singles position after the match against UCF, celebrated his first dual-match victory of the season, downing Zac Faveri 7-5, 7-5. He said he felt relieved to get his first singles victory of the season out of the way.

“I had a couple bad matches at Cal and Stanford so it feels awesome to get a win,” Hahn said. “I feel good about myself going into the national indoors.”

Hahn said he battled back to win the first set after trailing 5-1 and said mental toughness helped him come back.

“I just stayed mentally strong and got lucky on a couple deuce games at 2-5,” Hahn said. “Then the momentum just shifted and I carried it through the rest of the match.”

Sophomore Patrick Zahraj won both his matches and said the win will serve as a confidence boost heading into the indoor championship this weekend.

“The win is definitely a confidence boost and really energizes us heading into indoors,” Zahraj said. “We are pumped up and have a clear focus for our match against Texas.”

UCLA will take on No. 4 Texas at the ITA indoor championship on Friday.

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Nico Edgar | Sports contributor
Edgar is currently a Sports contributor on the men's tennis beat.
Edgar is currently a Sports contributor on the men's tennis beat.
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