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Alongside historic loss, UCLA men’s tennis splits matches in ITA Kickoff Weekend

Freshman Spencer Johnson slams a baseline backhand. The newcomer didn’t drop a single set during ITA Kickoff Weekend, emerging victorious in both doubles and both singles matches he competed in. (Jeremy Chen/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Chloe Agas

Jan. 30, 2024 1:58 p.m.

The Bruins snapped a 42-year-long streak Saturday morning.

UCLA men’s tennis (1-2) dropped a 4-2 decision to No. 15 Harvard (4-1) at Murr Center in Boston to commence ITA Kickoff Weekend, after which it found its first victory of the season against Ole Miss (4-2) in the consolation match. In the Bruins’ and Crimson’s first time meeting since 2000, the former snapped a 9-0 win streak that dates back to 1982.

Freshman Spencer Johnson and redshirt freshman Emon van Loben Sels prevailed against Ronan Jachuck and Masato Perera in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2.

But after the early doubles wins, only one Bruin could outshine his opponent in singles play.

Prevailing through losses and a set tie-break, Johnson managed the Bruins’ sole singles point of the day 7-6, 6-4.

“I was watching the recordings of my matches before this weekend and trying to see what to improve,” Johnson said. “The focuses I saw from that were how I was using my serve and how aggressive I was playing.”

Redshirt senior Govind Nanda faced two set tiebreaks, resulting in a razor-thin 7-6, 7-6 defeat. Senior Jorge Plans Gonzalez took on a contest with Melchior Delloye and won a second-set tiebreak 7-6 before losing in three sets. On the other hand, juniors Giacomo Revelli and Alexander Hoogmartens fell 7-5, 6-2 and 6-3, 6-4 in singles play, respectively.

With Friday’s result, the Bruins were slated to meet the Rebels the following morning. Coach Billy Martin said there were an abundance of positives to take from Friday’s affair.

“Even with our loss against Harvard, we played a really good match,” Martin said. “I feel somewhat good about that loss and we’ve got two guys that are getting better, Govind and Alex, after coming off some injuries.”

After ranked losses against Texas A&M and Harvard, UCLA fractured a season-opening losing streak Sunday morning. With the victory, the Bruins managed to maintain their all-time winning record against Ole Miss.

The contest began in favor of the Rebels. While van Loben Sels and Johnson cruised through their doubles match 6-2, neither the pair of redshirt junior Timothy Li and Revelli nor Hoogmartens and Nanda could defeat their opponents.

(Jeremy Chen/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Johnson and redshirt freshman Emon van Loben Sels high-five after securing a point. The duo were undefeated in doubles play against both No. 15 Harvard and Ole Miss this weekend. (Jeremy Chen/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Despite handing the Rebels the first point of the day, the Bruins bounced back in singles play.

Revelli, Hoogmartens and Johnson all grabbed leads in their opening sets, defeating their opponents 6-2, 6-2 and 6-4, respectively. Ole Miss swung its way back into the conversation with set-two wins against Revelli and Hoogmartens, while Johnson managed to complete his contest in straight sets. While Hoogmartens retrieved the final set and sealed the point, Revelli fell 6-1 in the final frame to allow the Rebels their sole singles point.

Johnson said confidence was the anchor to his performance Sunday.

“I needed to keep trying to play more confidently and just kept trying to tell myself that I can play with confidence and move forward,” Johnson said. “I was trying to execute my game plan and stay in the moment.”

Van Loben Sels, on the other hand, conceded his first set 6-4. After exchanging the deal in the following frame with another 6-4 decision, he claimed the third and final set 6-3. Plans Gonzalez also recuperated from an opening set loss with 6-0, 6-4 victories in the final two frames to hand the Bruins another tally.

Van Loben Sels notched his first career dual-match singles victory and closed out the Bruins’ singles play.

“I went down a set, a break, and I just had to fight it out,” van Loben Sels said. “The hardest part was breaking it out. ,I think having match points was probably one of the most nerve-wracking moments of my tennis career so far.”

Martin said he was impressed with the Bruins’ ability to recover after Saturday’s loss.

“Each one of them is getting better and better with each match,” Martin said. ” I felt they even played better today (Sunday). The guys did a great job of coming out feisty and winning four out of the five singles matches.”

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Chloe Agas
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