Malibu, Calif. - Junior Clay Thompson's three-set singles win helped the second-ranked UCLA men's tennis team narrowly escape with a 4-3 victory over No. 7 Pepperdine at the Ralphs-Straus Tennis Center in Malibu on Monday.
With the dual match tied at 3-3, Thompson and Pepperdine's David Sofaer headed to a third-set tiebreaker at court No. 5 to decide the match. Thompson moved out to a 5-2 lead in the final tiebreaker, however Sofaer battled back to tie things up at 6-6 and actually worked his way to a match point at 7-6. Thompson would save that match point, taking the final three points of the match to clinch the 4-3 win for UCLA.
"To be quite honest, we needed this," said UCLA head coach Billy Martin, whose team improves to 21-1 on the season. "We haven't played an opponent of this calibur in quite some time so I think this was a reminder of what we need to do in order to compete with the best teams out there."
UCLA got off to a rough start in Monday's contest, dropping the doubles point after owning two match points in the deciding match at court No. 1. After both teams split wins at court Nos. 2 and 3, it appeared as if 38th-ranked Marcos Giron and Dennis Novikov would clinch the point for UCLA over Pepperdine's Sebastian Fanselow and Francis Alcantara. Giron and Novikov owned two match points on Novikov's serve up 8-7, however the Bruin duo was broken in that game, eventually falling in a tiebreaker 7-5.
"I think doubles was a big key in this match," added Martin. "Once we lost that doubles point, Pepperdine came out fired up in singles and put us on our heels early. I don't want to take anything away from Pepperdine. They are a good team. But we didn't make it easy on ourselves today. It was one of those tough road matches and we were fortunate to win."
Despite Pepperdine's energy after doubles, the Bruins did manage to take the first three matches to take a 3-1 lead in the contest. Karue Sell and Adrien Puget both won in straight set at court Nos. 6 and 3, respectively. The other early win for UCLA came at court No. 4, where 70th-ranked Dennis Mkrtchian downed Mousheg Hovhannisyan, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.
Now within a point of losing the match, Pepperdine (21-5) battled back to tie things up at 3-3 following wins at court Nos. 1 and 2. Alex Sarkissian upset Giron, 6-4, 7-5 at court No. 2, while Fanselow downed Novikov, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) at court No. 1. Once Fanselow beat Novikov, all eyes then turned to court No. 5 for Thompson's eventual match-clinching victory.
UCLA closes out the regular season this Friday at the Los Angeles Tennis Center, hosting No. 4 USC at 3:00 p.m. At 6-0 in conference play, the Bruins will win the Pac-12 regular-season title outright with a victory. The two teams have already played twice this season, with the Trojans winning 4-3 at the USTA/ITA National Team Indoors, and the Bruins taking a 4-3 win of their own at USC on Feb. 22.
#2 UCLA 4, #7 Pepperdine 3
Apr 15, 2013 at Malibu, Calif. (Ralphs-Straus Tennis Center)
1. Fanselow/Alcantara (PEP) def. #38 Giron/Novikov (UCLA) 9-8(5)
2. #50 Puget/Sell (UCLA) def. Sofaer/Hovhannisyan (PEP) 8-3
3. Sarkissian/Damian Gryzelko (PEP) def. #87 Mkrtchian/Alex Brigham (UCLA) 8-5
Pepperdine Wins Doubles Point
1. #16 Sebastian Fanselow (PEP) def. #32 Dennis Novikov (UCLA) 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3)
2. Alex Sarkissian (PEP) def. #18 Marcos Giron (UCLA) 6-4, 7-5
3. #20 Adrien Puget (UCLA) def. #80 Francis Alcantara (PEP) 7-5, 6-3
4. #70 Dennis Mkrtchian (UCLA) def. Mousheg Hovhannisyan (PEP) 4-6, 6-3, 6-1
5. Clay Thompson (UCLA) def. David Sofaer (PEP) 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(7)
6. Karue Sell (UCLA) def. Kento Tanaka-Tamaki (PEP) 6-3, 6-1
UCLA 21-1; National ranking #2
Pepperdine 21-5; National ranking #7
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3,1); Singles (6,3,4,2,1,5)