LOS ANGELES - After suffering a 4-3 loss to USC in the semifinals of the USTA/ITA National Team Indoors last week, the third-ranked UCLA men's tennis team returned the favor on Friday, downing the second-ranked Trojans, 4-3 at the Marks Tennis Stadium on the campus of USC
. With the win, UCLA moves to 10-1 on the season, while USC sees its record fall to 12-2.
With Friday's dual match tied at 3-3, Bruin sophomore Marcos Giron clinched the win for UCLA, as he downed Emilio Gomez, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(3) at court No. 2. Gomez actually served for the match up 5-3 in the third set, however Giron was able to break and then hold for 5-5. The two players then held serve until the tiebreaker, where Giron took it 7-3.
"I've never experienced two matches in a row that were so close," said UCLA head coach Billy Martin
. "I really believe that today was crucial for us to make sure that we didn't lose to them twice in a row. I think if we had lost this match it could've been detrimental to the team. This win gives us a lot of confidence moving forward. It's just really amazing."
Similar to its loss to USC at the National Team Indoors, UCLA
managed to win the doubles point on Friday, taking wins at court Nos. 2 and 3. After Adrien Puget and Karue Sell notched an 8-3 victory over Max De Vroome and Roberto Quiroz at court No. 2, the Trojans answered right back with an 8-5 win of their own at court No. 1. That left things up to Alex Brigham and Dennis Mkrtchian to clinch the point for UCLA at the No. 3 spot, as they downed Gomez and Eric Johnson, 9-8(1) to give the Bruins a 1-0 advantage heading into singles play.
In singles action, 12th-ranked Ray Sarmiento quickly tied the match at 1-1 when he downed Bruin sophomore Dennis Novikov, 6-4, 6-3 at court No. 1. The two players met at the No. 1 spot a week ago, with Novikov taking a three-set victory over Sarmiento at the Indoors.
The Bruins then went ahead 2-1 with a straight-set victory of their own, as Puget downed Quiroz, 6-3, 6-2 at court No. 2. It was a big win for Puget, who lost to Quiroz in a third-set tiebreaker in the clinching match last week in Seattle.
The two teams would then trade wins the rest of the way, with USC getting victories from Yannick Hanfmann (court No. 4) and Eric Johnson (court No. 6), while UCLA received victories from Mkrtchian (court No. 5) and Giron (court No. 3).
Although Giron got the clinching win for the Bruins, Mkrtchian's play on Friday did not go unnoticed by Martin.
"I gave our game ball to Dennis," said Martin. "It was hard not to give it to Marcos, who obviously had a great match, but Dennis and Alex won a huge tiebreaker in doubles to give us the point. He also had a big comeback after losing the first set in singles. He just energized us today. I was really proud of him."
The two teams will meet again on April 19 at UCLA in what could be another classic showdown between the two cross-town rivals.
"How much closer can you get?," said Martin when asked if UCLA and USC are as evenly matched as any two teams in the country. "To be honest, I can't come away from this win thinking we are better. I know it's going to be a will of minds each time these two teams play. Whoever plays better at the end of the match is going to win. It's as clsoe as I've seen the UCLA-USC rivalry in all my years of coaching."
#3 UCLA 4, #2 USC 3
Feb 22, 2013 at Los Angeles, CA (Marks Tennis Stadium)
1. #48 Hanfmann/Sarmiento (USC) def. Giron/Novikov (UCLA) 8-5
2. Puget/Sell (UCLA) def. De Vroome/Roberto (USC) 8-3
3. Alex Brigham/Mkrtchian (UCLA) def. #49 Gomez/Johnson (USC) 9-8(1)
UCLA Wins Doubles Point
1. #12 Ray Sarmiento (USC) def. #58 Dennis Novikov (UCLA) 6-4, 6-3
2. #13 Marcos Giron (UCLA) def. #10 Emilio Gomez (USC) 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(3)
3. #42 Adrien Puget (UCLA) def. #23 Roberto Quiroz (USC) 6-3, 6-2
4. #94 Yannick Hanfmann (USC) def. Clay Thompson (UCLA) 3-6, 6-2, 6-0
5. #55 Dennis Mkrtchian (UCLA) def. #109 Max De Vroome (USC) 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-3
6. #46 Eric Johnson (USC) def. Karue Sell (UCLA) 6-1, 4-6, 6-4
UCLA 10-1; National ranking #3
USC 12-2; National ranking #2
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1,3); Singles (1,3,4,5,6,2)