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UCLA tennis faces early exit from NCAA championships, ending season

Junior Kimmi Hance readies at Greenwood Tennis Center. (Olivia Simons/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Chloe Agas

May 23, 2024 10:26 p.m.

This post was updated May 24 at 1:46 a.m.

Tian Fangran was 6-0 throughout singles in last year’s postseason.

The sophomore did not drop a set en route to the second NCAA singles title in UCLA women’s tennis’ history – the first since Keri Phebus 28 years ago.

However, she would not return to defend her title.

On May 19, Tian made the unprecedented decision to withdraw from the singles tournament – instead opting to enter doubles contention with junior Elise Wagle. The Pac-12 Doubles Team of the Year – ranked No. 13 in the nation – entered the tournament unseeded.

The doubles tandem would not be the only duo competing on behalf of the Bruins at the NCAA championships.

Junior Kimmi Hance and freshman Bianca Fernandez made their NCAA singles debut – a decision unexpectedly drawn on the first day of matchups.

Hance – who is not unfamiliar with the second week of NCAA action – and Wagle competed in last year’s doubles championships, but the duo was eliminated in the round of 64 against Wake Forest.

In singles contention, Hance drew NC State’s Anna Zyryanova, while Fernandez drew Miami’s Isabella Pfennig.

But the first day of singles action was the furthest the Bruins progressed. After breaking up 3-0 in both the first and second sets, Hance fell to Zyryanova 6-3, 6-3. Fernandez started with a first-set lead of 6-0 – only to fall 6-0 to Pfennig in the second set. Fernandez lost the deciding third set, 6-2.

The sole Bruin representing the UCLA men’s tennis team, redshirt senior and co-captain Govind Nanda, faced a familiar foe – Michael Zheng of Columbia.

(Julia Zhou/Photo editor)
Redshirt senior Govind Nanda draws his right arm back at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. (Julia Zhou/Photo editor)

The two previously met in March, when Nanda fell to Zheng after a second-set tiebreak 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).

Nanda was a freshman in his first appearance at the national championships. He fell in the first round to No. 8 seed Oliver Crawford of Florida.

Nanda’s second appearance ended the same way.

After Zheng’s first-set effort, he broke and held a serve game, while Nanda lost in straight sets 6-3, 6-3.

The match signified the end of an era for Nanda – his final event competing in blue and gold.

There was one last hope for the Bruins to continue in the championships.

Tian and Wagle took the court against Ariana Arseneault and DJ Bennett of Auburn. A serve break brought the Tiger duo an advantage during the first break. A tiebreak took hold of the first set, but Arseneault and Bennett edged the Bruin duo.

(Olivia Simons/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Junior Elise Wagle (left) and sophomore Tian Fangran (right) in Stillwater, Oklahoma. (Olivia Simons/Daily Bruin senior staff)

As the second set reached 5-5, a deciding hold ultimately put the odds in the Tigers’ favor, resulting in a 7-6 (3), 7-5 finish to the night – and the end of the road for the Bruins.

The Bruins’ run at nationals ended in four first-round exits in Stillwater, Oklahoma, drawing a conclusion to the season.

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