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UCLA men’s tennis defeats Oklahoma State in novel road showdown

Redshirt senior Govind Nanda clenches his fist in celebration. Nanda clinched his second singles win of the season after two years away from the program. (Vivian Le/Daily Bruin)

Men's Tennis

Oklahoma State3

By Alexsia Drulias

Feb. 1, 2024 2:44 p.m.

Coach Billy Martin can’t predict the future, but he can prepare for it.

UCLA men’s tennis (2-2) conquered Oklahoma State (4-2) during Tuesday’s showdown in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Bruins secured the doubles point and a singles win at the No. 1 position, while the Cowboys equalized the scoreboard with two singles wins.

Redshirt senior Govind Nanda’s win commenced the Bruins’ singles campaign and winning fashion and marked his second singles win as a Bruin this season.

After stepping away from Westwood for two years to pursue professional tennis, Nanda returned to a team of unfamiliar faces. During this most recent season, he alternated between playing at the No. 1 and No. 2 slots – so the top-court position is far from foreign.

Despite Nanda’s singles point, the match’s result rested on securing two of the final three singles matches – where junior Alexander Hoogmartens, freshman Spencer Johnson and redshirt freshman Emon van Loben Sels all reached a third set. The two freshmen delivered an identical 6-2 third frame, as van Loben Sels snagged his second clinch victory for the Bruins.

“It’s like a dream come true for me playing for this team,” van Loben Sels said. “I just want to do everything I can to help support the team this season.”

During the 2022-2023 season, van Loben Sels didn’t play on the court yet still contributed significantly to the team’s camaraderie. Observing last season simultaneously helped him decipher what he wanted to do when he stormed the court this season.

This was all in accordance with Martin’s early investment in van Loben Sels – one of his younger players.

“I took him for trips (last season); I wanted him to see what it was all about,” Martin said. “He was able to imagine himself in the position of doing what he did today and the other day against Ole Miss, so I think it was very helpful for him.”

Van Loben Sels said defeating Oklahoma State in its home realm wasn’t an easy task in and of itself. The trek from Boston to Stillwater after UCLA competed against Ole Miss was designed to further the team’s comfortability and performance on indoor courts, especially for midseason matchups at Oregon and Washington.

However, there was a shinier reason as to why Martin chose to finish his team’s cross-country odyssey in the Southwest.

“This year, our NCAA team championship is here at Oklahoma State, as well as individuals,” Martin said. “And that’s really why I chose to play here. I wanted myself, as a coach, and my team – in case we are fortunate enough to make it – to have been here before.”

In Martin’s 31 years of coaching, he had never seen the inside of the Greenwood Tennis Center, the home of the Cowboys. He didn’t want the team’s first exposure to be unprecedented during the championships.

“I just felt it was very important for the guys to have a picture of what it’s like,” Martin said.


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Alexsia Drulias
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