Men’s tennis clinches victory against UC Irvine in last match before Pac-12 play
Sophomore Mathew Tsolakyan has won each of his last three singles matches for UCLA men’s tennis. Since starting for the first time this season against then-No. 7 Texas A&M, Tsolakyan hasn’t lost a set and has only conceded 14 total games. (Niveda Tennety/Assistant Photo editor)
|No. 17 UCLA||4|
By Nico Edgar
Feb. 23, 2020 11:52 p.m.
The Bruins will carry a two-game winning streak into league play.
No. 17 UCLA men’s tennis (6-4) beat UC Irvine (3-3) 4-0 at the Los Angeles Tennis Center on Sunday to push its all-time record versus UCI to 40-2. The Bruins’ win came on the heels of a 4-0 upset over then-No. 10 North Carolina State at the ITA indoor championship last weekend, which gave coach Billy Martin his 600th career victory.
In doubles, junior Keegan Smith’s serving paved the way for him and partner sophomore Govind Nanda to clinch the doubles point for UCLA. The No. 24-ranked pair were the last doubles match off the court, with a 7-6 (4) win over the Anteaters’ Mark Peneff and Mateusz Smolicki.
The duo initially jumped out to 4-1 and 5-3 leads, but needed 10 match points to finish off its opponents.
Nanda said the pair lost intensity and focus midway through the match.
“We came out playing well, then we lost focus throughout the match and took it too lightly,” Nanda said. “We need to come out with better intentions and more aggressiveness. We definitely need to improve from today.”
Sophomore Patrick Zahraj and junior Bryce Pereira won their doubles match 6-4 after coming back from an early 3-1 deficit, breaking the Anteaters’ duo twice for the win from behind.
Despite UCLA coming away with the initial point, Martin said he wasn’t happy with the Bruins’ performance on the doubles courts.
“We were lucky to win the point, that’s as poor as I’ve seen us play,” Martin said. “I was very disappointed in our doubles play; we came out very flat and low energy.”
UCLA saw stronger starts in singles, winning nine of the first 10 singles games and all six first sets. Martin said the heightened energy level was a welcome sight.
“We stepped up and played a lot better in singles,” Martin said. “Luckily we finished off strong.”
Smith, ranked No. 8 nationally, won his match against Peneff 6-3, 6-1 to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead. Nanda, who ranked No. 28, quickly followed suit with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Smolicki, stretching the Bruin lead to 3-0.
Sophomore Mathew Tsolakyan posted the fourth and clinching point for the Bruins with a 6-3, 6-1 defeat of Irvine’s Daniel Gealer.
Since being penciled into the singles lineup at the ITA indoors, Tsolakyan has won all of his dual-match singles contests this season.
“(Tsolakyan) was playing pretty well at indoors and continued that here,” Martin said. “His performance has definitely been a lift to our team.”
Tsolakyan’s strong performance was fueled by a dominating second set in which he won 62% of his return points, compared to 45% for Gealer, and broke Gealer on every one of his service games. Tsolakyan said returning the serve deep was key to his victory.
“Getting my returns in deep has really helped me improve,” Tsolakyan said. “It allows me to dictate the rest of the point with my forehand.”
The Bruins will head to Seattle to begin Pac-12 play Friday at Washington.