Looking to settle a score, UCLA men’s tennis gears up to take on TCU
Coach Billy Martin of UCLA men’s tennis watches a match. Martin and the Bruins will have a chance to notch their first top-10 win since 2020 when they visit TCU on Saturday. (Anika Chakrabarti/Photo editor)
No. 1 TCU
Saturday, 10 a.m.
Bartzen Varsity Courts (Fort Worth, TX)
TCU Live Stream
By Jeremy Chen
March 10, 2023 5:33 p.m.
Patrick Zahraj has some unfinished business.
Last year’s match against this year’s top team is still replaying in the redshirt senior’s mind.
UCLA men’s tennis (6-2) is set to take on No. 1 TCU (13-0) on Saturday, a year and a day after its 4-2 loss to the Horned Frogs. While the blue and gold had home court advantage in 2022, this year’s meeting brings the Bruins to Fort Worth, Texas.
Zahraj said he still remembers being a set up, then tied at three games apiece with then-No. 89 Sander Jong. And just when things looked like they might go his way, according to Zahraj, then-freshman Karl Lee dropped a tight second set and Pedro Vives clinched it for the Horned Frogs.
“I think that’s still very vivid in everyone’s mind,” Zahraj said.
But not everyone has a history with TCU.
Freshman Gianluca Ballotta said he is hoping to extend his undefeated singles streak, but added that he’s ready for a grueling match against the cream of the crop.
“It’s a tough opponent for sure,” Ballotta said. “It’s the best team in the country right now.”
Despite TCU’s standing, coach Billy Martin said he is coming in with positivity and excitement. Martin underscored the lack of pressure and stakes, adding that the Bruins have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
Martin said he believes his team’s resilient victory against Pennsylvania boosted its morale.
“Especially after winning the match today (Wednesday), I think we can be in a little better mood going down there,” Martin said.
The length of the Penn match – which featured doubles that lasted nearly an hour, followed by two hours of singles play – would be key for improving the team’s stamina, according to Martin.
Zahraj added that he believes strongly in his teammates’ abilities.
“We’re going into that with a high chest and a little bit of confidence, and definitely wanting to give up a fight,” Zahraj said.
Although the blue and gold’s freshmen helped lead its comeback on Wednesday, the Bruins still await the return of No. 41 Alexander Hoogmartens to the singles lineup. The sophomore remains undefeated in singles this season – a run that includes four wins against top-50 players.
Hoogmartens, Zahraj, sophomore Giacomo Revelli and junior Stefan Leustian are the only current Bruins who played in the past match against the Horned Frogs.
“Last year definitely has shown us that we can hang in there,” Zahraj said. “Once we’re in the battle, anything can happen.”
First serve is set for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Bartzen Varsity Courts.