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UCLA men’s tennis splits away games with win over Arizona State, loss to Arizona

Junior Mathew Tsolakyan won his 13th straight singles match by scores of 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 in UCLA men’s tennis’ win over No. 17 Arizona State on Friday before snapping that streak with a 6-3, 4-6, 0-6 loss to No. 19 Arizona on Sunday. (Ashley Kenney/Assistant photo editor)

men's tennis

Arizona State3

By Alexander Chesney

March 30, 2021 4:29 p.m.

The Bruins split their road trip against two ranked opponents playing unranked for the first time all season.

UCLA men’s tennis (8-3, 2-1 Pac-12) traveled to the Grand Canyon State to face off against No. 17 Arizona State (13-5, 2-2) and No. 19 Arizona (17-4, 4-0 Pac-12) over the weekend. The Bruins beat the Sun Devils 4-3 on Friday and lost to the Wildcats 4-1 on Sunday.

After losing the doubles point, UCLA lost the first set in four of its six singles matches against Arizona State, with juniors Govind Nanda and Mathew Tsolakyan, as well as graduate transfer Sam Feit and redshirt senior Ben Goldberg all dropping their first sets.

However, the Bruins battled back, with senior Keegan Smith defeating Nathan Ponwith 6-1, 6-7(2), 6-3 in his match on court one, and Nanda defeating Makey Rakotomalala 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 on court two.

Sophomore Drew Baird defeated the Sun Devils’ Tim Ruehl in straight sets 6-4, 7-6(4) after earning a career-high ranking of No. 57 last week.

“ASU was a little, I wouldn’t say hostile, but different and today was a very different experience,” said coach Billy Martin. “We fought our hearts out to get the victory at ASU.”

UCLA started its road trip against Arizona State with Tsolakyan securing the team’s victory in his singles match against Christian Lerby, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3. The win against the Sun Devils marked Tsolakyan’s 13th straight singles match victory without a loss.

“Felt good,” Tsolakyan said. “I don’t focus on that stuff. I just try to go one match at a time.”

Following its win against Arizona State, UCLA traveled to Tucson to compete against Arizona. Martin said the Tucson heat affected his team’s performance.

“This was the first match we had with a little bit of heat, (I) felt like it zapped the guys of their energy a little bit,” Martin said. “We were mid-80s here (in Westwood), (it was a) good 15-plus degrees hotter (in Tucson).”

The Bruins started off with two wins in their doubles matches to secure an early 1-0 lead. The senior duo of Bryce Pereira and Smith defeated Jonas Ziverts and Filip Malbasic 6-4, while the combination of juniors Roscoe Bellamy and Tsolakyan won against Jared Horwood and Jett Middleton 6-1.

UCLA was less successful in its singles matches Sunday.

Smith lost his singles match against Ziverts 3-6, 7-5, 4-6, and Baird was defeated by Malbasic 5-7, 0-6. Nanda was defeated on court two by Gustaf Strom 5-7, 2-6, giving the Wildcats a 3-1 lead over the Bruins.

“They pulled a lot of tricks out of the bag to make sure we knew we weren’t at home,” Martin said. “I think these are the two best years I’ve seen Arizona as far as strength for quite a few years.”

After winning the first set, Tsolakyan lost to Nick Lagaev 6-3, 4-6, 0-6. The loss against Lagaev on Sunday ended Tsolakyan’s streak of 13 singles matches without a loss, a run that began during the 2019-2020 season.

“Just not being consistent enough in the end was the biggest thing,” Tsolakyan said. “We fought hard – it just didn’t go our way today.”

Arizona’s victory marked its second-ever win against UCLA, improving its all-time record against the Bruins to 2-72.

UCLA will next play Oregon on April 2 in Los Angeles.

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Alexander Chesney | Sports contributor
Chesney is currently a Sports contributor on the men's tennis beat.
Chesney is currently a Sports contributor on the men's tennis beat.
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