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Freshman Spencer Johnson clinches win against Pepperdine for UCLA men’s tennis

The Bruins huddle for a cheer. UCLA men’s tennis extended its winning streak to four Sunday afternoon against Pepperdine. (Vivian Le/Daily Bruin)

Men's Tennis


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By Lamar Tuker

Feb. 20, 2024 1:44 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 21 at 9:42 p.m.

Spencer Johnson’s final swat of the racket preserved the Bruins’ winning streak.

“I’m still amazed myself that we pulled that out,” coach Billy Martin said. “But it just gives me incredible confidence in Spencer as a young man with a lot of heart to keep fighting for our team.”

The freshman battled for over two hours before toppling his opponent in the third set 7-5, leading his team to victory.

UCLA men’s tennis (4-2) bested Pepperdine (1-5) at the Ralphs-Straus Tennis Center on Sunday afternoon, settling the score 4-3. The Bruins departed Malibu with their fourth consecutive win of the season.

As the last Bruin on court, Johnson bore the weight of UCLA’s hopes for a win. The Ladera Ranch local was able to come back from a 4-6 loss in the first set, overcoming his opponent by a similar two-point margin in the second frame at 7-5.

Johnson’s third and final set drilled the nail in the Waves’ coffin. After being down 5-4, the newcomer went on a three-point spurt to clinch the contest and the Bruins’ fourth victory.

“It showed me a lot as a coach,” Martin said. “And I feel like I’ve seen a lot through my years here at UCLA and in college tennis. I feel Spencer himself has a lot of talent, and as a young freshman, he’s going to get nothing but better.”

Prior to Johnson’s finish, sophomore Gianluca Ballotta returned to the Bruins’ lineup after his injury but was unable to secure a win. The 6-4, 7-5 scoreboard figures fell in favor of the hosts, splitting his season singles record 1-1 with a loss on the slate.

Martin said despite Ballotta’s struggles Sunday, he is a fundamental component of the team, regardless of the match’s outcome.

“It was great to have him back. He did not play his best match by any means,” Martin said. “I didn’t expect it, but we need to get him back in the lineup because he’s a good player and someone that we know can play well for us.”

The Bruins swept the doubles tablet as the newcomer duo of redshirt freshman Emon van Loben Sels and Johnson, as well as the veteran combination of redshirt senior Govind Nanda and redshirt junior Jeffrey Fradkin, both conquered their opponents 6-3.

Nanda also contributed a tally for UCLA during his singles match. His victory in the third set leveled the playing field 3-3 before Johnson prevailed in his winning set.

Sophomore Aadarsh Tripathi bagged his second singles sweep of the season, routing his opponent in straight sets in the sophomore’s third appearance of the season.

Martin said the team is able to rally, even when they’re not playing their best.

“You’re not going to have your best day every day, but luckily, sometimes your team members pull it out,” Martin said. “And you live to be able to play the next match without feeling too bad about it.”

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