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UCLA men’s tennis loses shot at Pac-12 championship title with loss to Washington

Redshirt senior Bryce Pereira holds his racket during a match. Pereira clinched the win for No. 5 seed UCLA men’s tennis in its win over No. 4 seed Utah on Thursday in the Pac-12 championship while also picking up a singles win in the Bruins’ loss to No. 8 Washington on Friday. (Jeremy Chen/Daily Bruin staff)

Men's tennis

No. 4 seed Utah2
No. 5 seed UCLA4
No. 8 seed Washington4
No. 5 seed UCLA3

By Alexander Chesney

April 24, 2022 2:13 p.m.

Correction: The original version of this article's caption incorrectly identified Bryce Pereira as a senior. In fact, Pereira is a redshirt senior.

This post was updated April 24 at 11:39 p.m.

With the match tied at three points apiece, the Bruins’ championship hopes rested on the racket of sophomore Stefan Leustian.

Leustian had built a 4-1 lead in the third set against his opponent, two games away from winning the match for the Bruins. However, Leustian’s lead was erased as his 17-year-old Husky opponent mounted a five-game comeback to take the third set and eliminate the blue and gold’s chances at a championship.

No. 5 seed UCLA men’s tennis (13-12, 2-4 Pac-12) traveled north to the Pac-12 championship in Ojai, California, where it defeated No. 4 seed Utah (20-7, 4-4) by a score of 4-2 in the second round Thursday before falling 4-3 to No. 8 seed Washington (18-11, 2-6) in the semifinal Friday.

“Losing sucks,” said freshman Karl Lee. “I didn’t play horribly. I’m not mad about my individual loss, but I’m just mad about losing.”

In their first match of the tournament, the Bruins faced off against a team that had swept them four days earlier in the conference regular-season finale. UCLA got on the board first with the duo of redshirt freshman Jeffrey Fradkin and redshirt senior Bryce Pereira defeating Jayson Blando and Mathias Gavelin 6-4, followed by Lee and senior Max Wild defeating Francisco Bastias and Bruno Caula 7-5 to give the blue and gold a 1-0 lead.

In singles play, the Bruins would increase their lead to 3-0 with Leustian defeating Gavelin 6-3, 6-1 and freshman Giacomo Revelli besting Bastias 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. The Utes pulled the score to 3-2 when Lee lost to Geronimo Espin Busleiman 7-6 (6), 7-5 and Fradkin fell to Bruno Krenn 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Up a point, the Bruins had two remaining singles matches to clinch the win, with both remaining players – senior Patrick Zahraj and Pereira – in their third set. After coming back from a 5-2 deficit, it was Pereira who secured the winning point of the match, defeating Caula 7-6 (4), 1-6, 7-6 (3).

“I (was) really surprised that Bryce Pereira was right there – man of the hour in two matches – to pull out two great wins and win it for us yesterday (Thursday),” said coach Billy Martin. “Really proud of his performance here.”

The Bruins’ win over the Utes brought them to the semifinal, where they took on the Huskies for a spot in the championship match.

Despite winning the first doubles match, UCLA fell behind early with the pairing of Pereira and Fradkin losing to Cesar Bouchelaghem and Brandon Wong 6-4 followed by Lee and Wild picking up a loss to Clement Chidekh and Nedim Suko 7-5, giving Washington a 1-0 lead.

In singles play, Zahraj would face off against Chidekh, losing 6-3, 6-3 to give the Huskies a 2-0 lead. On court six, Fradkin handled Suko in straight sets 6-1, 6-3, but the Huskies would strike back with Revelli losing to Jack Davis 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, moving the score to 3-1.

With Washington needing one more singles win to end the match, UCLA mounted a comeback as Lee conquered Ewen Lumsden 6-3, 0-6, 6-3 and Pereira took down Han-Chih Lin 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 to tie the match at 3-3.

“I think I saved three match points yesterday (Thursday). I saved two match points today (Friday) on the second set, but there (weren’t) any nerves or anything,” Pereira said. “During those situations, I thrive.”

Despite the redshirt senior’s comeback efforts, Leustian’s loss ultimately sealed the deal for Washington, handing the Huskies a ticket to the final match.

Martin said his team’s performance at the tournament showcased the Bruins’ grit.

“We show teams that we’re not going to roll over and die. You got to come out and beat us,” Martin said. “We showed a lot of guts and determination and really had a good chance to win this match at the very end, but unfortunately, it just came up a little short.”

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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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