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Athens, Ga. - The sixth-seeded UCLA men's tennis team posted its third-straight shutout of the NCAA Tournament on Friday evening at Georgia's Dan Magill Tennis Complex, downing unseeded Tennessee, 4-0 in the round of 16. The Bruins (25-3) now move on to Sunday's quarterfinals where they will meet third-seeded Ohio State. The Buckeyes edged 14th-seeded Florida, 4-3 on Friday night. That quarterfinal showdown will be at 4:00 p.m. (EST) on Georgia's McWhorter Courts.
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Friday marked the 10th time in as many matches that the Bruins were able to claim the doubles point. A quick 8-3 win by Joseph Di Giulio and Clay Thompson at court No. 3 gave the Bruins an early edge, however Tennessee owned a commanding lead at court No. 1. It was evident early on that the point would likely be decided at court No. 2, where UCLA's Adrien Puget and Karue Sell were in a tight battle with Tennessee's Jarryd Chaplin and Andrew Dromsky. Puget and Sell actually owned a 6-3 lead until the Volunteers mounted a comback to even the match. It would eventually go to a tiebreaker, where Puget and Sell got an early lead and never looked back, taking an 8-7(3) victory to clinch the point for UCLA.
"We got off to a little bit of a slow start in doubles, especially at court No. 1," said UCLA head coach Billy Martin, who has now reached the quarterfinals for the 20th time in his 21 years as head coach in Westwood. "Fortunately for us, Adrien and Karue really stepped up at court No. 2 to win that tiebreaker. We just gained so much momentum by winning that doubles. They gave us a real shot in the arm when we needed it."
Although doubles was close, UCLA really took control of the match in singles, taking first sets at all six courts. Freshman Gage Brymer was first off at court No. 4, as his 6-2, 6-2 win over Tennessee junior Brandon Fickey gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead.
"Gage was just rock solid for us tonight," said Martin. "For this to be his first NCAA Tournament and to turn in a performance like that is just outstanding. I kept looking over there and I don't think I saw him lose a point. I'm just really proud of the way he played tonight."
Not long after Brymer's win, another straight-set victory would follow for UCLA at court No. 5, where senior Adrien Puget downed Dromsky, 6-4, 6-2. Puget, who had been sidelined nearly the entire season while recovering from knee surgery, is now 3-0 in his return to the singles lineup.
Junior Marcos Giron, the nation's second-ranked singles player, notched the clinching win for the Bruins at court No. 2, downing 34th-ranked Mikelis Libietis, 6-3, 6-3. Giron's win put UCLA into the quarterfinals for the third-straight year.
"I think we are all really pumped to be here," said Giron after the match. "We've all been training really hard during the season up to this point and I think we've done a good job of tapering off and being fresh and making sure we've taken care of business up until now. I think our hard work and our spirit are showing. We've been playing well and I think if we continue to play well, we'll go far."
UCLA was also in control at the other three suspended courts. Sell was up 6-2, 5-4 over Bartosz Sawicki at court No. 6 and had just had a match point saved, while Thompson, the nation's No. 1 singles player, was up 7-6(3), 3-0 over 27th-ranked Hunter Reese at court No. 1. Freshman Mackenzie McDonald was also up 6-4, 4-3 at court No. 3.
"It's always good to get this first match if you are lucky enough to get here," said Martin. "Get this first match under your belt and get used to the surroundings and everything. We've got a much tougher opponent next round, and we're going to have to play well to have a chance."
NCAA Round of 16
#5 UCLA 4, #20 Tennessee 0
May 16, 2014 at Athens, GA (Dan Magill Tennis Complex)
1. #10 Giron/McDonald (UCLA) vs. #2 Libietis/Reese (UT) 2-7, unfinished
2. Puget/Sell (UCLA) def. Chaplin/Dromsky (UT) 8-7(3)
3. Joseph Di Giulio/Thompson (UCLA) def. Fickey/Sawicki (UT) 8-4
UCLA Wins Doubles Point
1. #1 Clay Thompson (UCLA) vs. #27 Hunter Reese (UT) 7-6(3), 3-0, unfinished
2. #2 Marcos Giron (UCLA) def. #34 Mikelis Libietis (UT) 6-3, 6-3
3. #35 Mackenzie McDonald (UCLA) vs. Jarryd Chaplin (UT) 6-4, 4-3, unfinished
4. #71 Gage Brymer (UCLA) def. Brandon Fickey (UT) 6-2, 6-2
5. Adrien Puget (UCLA) def. Andrew Dromsky (UT) 6-4, 6-2
6. #95 Karue Sell (UCLA) vs. Bartosz Sawicki (UT) 6-2, 5-4, unfinished
Tennessee 19-11; National ranking #20
UCLA 25-3; National ranking #5
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2); Singles (4,5,2)