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After losing road matches, UCLA men’s tennis will face Washington, Oregon at home

Patrick Zahraj locks in for a forehand return. The redshirt senior for UCLA men’s tennis hasn’t won a dual-singles match since March 13, dropping four consecutive contests along the way. (Anika Chakrabarti/Photo editor)

Men's Tennis


Washington
Friday, 2 p.m.

Los Angeles Tennis Center
UCLA Live Stream
Oregon
Saturday, 1 p.m.

Los Angeles Tennis Center
UCLA Live Stream

By Jeremy Chen

April 13, 2023 1:21 p.m.

The Bruins are trying to get back on track.

UCLA men’s tennis (9-7, 1-3 Pac-12) will square off against Washington (10-8, 1-3) and Oregon (12-9, 1-3) this Friday and Saturday, respectively. After dropping three matches from their recent four-match road trip, the Bruins will seek to capitalize on their return to the Los Angeles Tennis Center against the Huskies, who are mired in their own four-match losing streak.

Coach Billy Martin said he does not have high hopes for winning the Pac-12 conference, instead shifting his focus to buoying up the team’s shot at the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

The blue and gold is 25-0 against Oregon since 1999, and it’ll need history on its side if it wants to continue its push for higher seeding.

“This weekend’s going to be critical for us, and we’re looking forward to it,” Martin said.

Critical as it may be, UCLA will likely play this weekend’s matches again without its No. 1 singles player, Alexander Hoogmartens. The No. 85-ranked sophomore has been missing from the lineup because of an injury since the first week of February, with the exception of one doubles match against Pennsylvania on March 8.

“When you lose someone at the top of your lineup, it’s never easy,” Martin said. “But it’s certainly given a few guys an opportunity to move up.”

Gianluca Ballotta has taken advantage of Hoogmartens’ absence, holding a slot on the Bruins’ singles front for over two months and winning six of his nine matches.

Even so, the freshman is currently on a two-match slide and added that he wants to tighten up his conditioning in order to bounce back.

“I’m just working hard in that aspect to get faster on the court since it’s a very critical part of my game,” Ballotta said.

Patrick Zahraj has likewise seen a slip in his singles play, falling short in four of his last five matches, three of which were against top-50 opponents.

However, the redshirt senior is currently training with his father, who is visiting Westwood for the first time in his son’s five-year collegiate career.

“He’s going to actually see me play for the first time, which is going to be pretty special,” Zahraj said.

Zahraj added that he wants to soak in not only his dad’s presence but also the waning moments of his time as a Bruin. He said he’s coming into this final stretch of home games with an extra smile as he tries to contribute to winning tennis.

The team will need to channel Ballotta’s work ethic and Zahraj’s attitude if it wants to get back into the win column this weekend.

But despite the recent tribulations, Martin said the team has come out with a winning attitude from the jump.

“Especially when Alex went down, I think we knew it was going to be a tough one (season) for us to compete,” Martin added. “But we’ve been gutsy little Bruins out there, fighting our hearts out.”

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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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