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UCLA men’s tennis extends historic losing streak with latest loss to USC

Freshman Aadarsh Tripathi lunges as he returns a volley during doubles play. Tripathi slotted in at No. 1 doubles Wednesday for the first time this season. (Jeremy Chen/Assistant Photo editor)

Men's Tennis


No. 8 USC4
UCLA0

By Jeremy Chen

March 2, 2023 1:41 p.m.

An experienced Trojan team proved too much for the young Bruins to best.

UCLA men’s tennis (5-2) fell to No. 8 USC (8-3) by a 4-0 margin Wednesday afternoon at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. The Bruins have now lost seven straight matches to the Trojans – the longest losing streak by either team in the rivalry since at least 1999.

The matchup was the second of the season between the crosstown rivals, with a third slated for April 19 at Marks Stadium.

With “Bruins!” chants reverberating throughout the bowl, the contest was markedly different from the blue and gold’s first tussle with the Trojans. The result, however, was not.

UCLA started its second straight match without No. 48 sophomore Alexander Hoogmartens, who has played No. 1 singles and No. 2 doubles this season. Freshman Azuma Visaya was also absent from the lineup, but coach Billy Martin said both players will return soon.

The absences of Hoogmartens and Visaya shook up the doubles teams for the Bruins, forcing Martin to inject more youth into the matches and play some unfamiliar pairs.

“We tried to throw the kitchen sink at them a little, but it wasn’t successful and they’ve (USC) got good doubles,” Martin said.

Consequently, Gianluca Ballotta played in the first doubles match of his collegiate career. The freshman had seen singles starts in the blue and gold’s last two matches, winning against Portland and UC Irvine 6-2, 6-4 and 7-5, 6-0, respectively.

Ballotta said he’s grown confident from those first two wins and is equally enthused by his performance against the Trojans.

“I’m really happy about how I played today,” Ballotta said. “It was a big match for us, tough opponent for sure, very talented, and I think I did very good.”

USC’s toughness was evident, as its powerful groundstrokes kept UCLA uncomfortable and at bay for the doubles point.

Freshman Aadarsh Tripathi and Ballotta played with sophomore Giacomo Revelli and redshirt senior Patrick Zahraj, respectively, with both pairings falling 6-3.

Tripathi said he enjoyed competing against the No. 17 doubles team in the nation, adding that he wants to build on the experience.

“There’s so much more to learn,” Tripathi said. “I can always get bigger, faster, stronger and learn a lot from them.”

Down 3-0 after the doubles point and singles losses on courts five and six, the Bruins had a chance to spark a comeback.

Zahraj had bolted out to a 4-1 second-set lead over No. 42 Stefan Dostanic after losing a tiebreaker in the first, Tripathi was two games from victory against USC’s Wojtek Marek and Ballotta was on serve in a deciding set.

Revelli had similarly clawed back from a 5-3 deficit, trailing 6-5 to No. 19 Peter Makk in the second set.

But the Bruins’ rally would fall just short.

A putaway from Makk clinched the match for the Trojans, leaving the rest of the courts unfinished.

Despite the loss, Tripathi managed to turn in a near-win against an opponent that beat him in straight sets last month, while Ballotta made his doubles debut and challenged for a singles win. Martin said he was very pleased with the play from his freshmen and noted their upward trajectory.

“Those three guys (Tripathi, Ballotta and Visaya) are looking really solid in our lineup,” Martin said. “(I’m) really happy with what’s happening, and I’m sure it’s only going to get better with a little experience.”

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Jeremy Chen
Chen is a Photo editor and a sports contributor on the men's tennis beat. He is a fourth-year cognitive science student pursuing a minor in film, television, and digital media, and he is from Alameda, California. He was previously an assistant Photo editor on the Sports beat.
Chen is a Photo editor and a sports contributor on the men's tennis beat. He is a fourth-year cognitive science student pursuing a minor in film, television, and digital media, and he is from Alameda, California. He was previously an assistant Photo editor on the Sports beat.
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