LOS ANGELES - The third-ranked UCLA men's tennis team wrapped up its second-straight Pac-12 regular-season championship on Friday afternoon, registering a 4-3 victory over fourth-ranked USC before several thousand fans at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. With the win, the Bruins finish undefeated in conference play for the second year in a row and improve to 22-1 on the year and 7-0 in the Pac-12.
"I'm in shock to be quite honest," said UCLA head coach Billy Martin. "I can't say I thought we would be as dominant as we were at those top three courts. You never really expect that type of performance against a great team like USC so when it happens, it's special. I'm extremely proud of our guys."
Doubles play was extremely close, with UCLA and USC each splitting victories to begin the match. USC's Max De Vroome and Eric Johnson struck first at court No. 3, downing Alex Brigham and Dennis Mkrtchian, 8-3. UCLA answered right back, however, when 43rd-ranked Marcos Giron and Dennis Novikov notched an 8-6 win over 32nd-ranked Yannick Hanfmann and Raymond Sarmiento at the No. 1 spot. The point ultimately came down to court No. 2, as UCLA's 76th-ranked Adrien Puget and Karue Sell were in a tight battle with 49th-ranked Emilio Gomez and Roberto Quiroz. Despite owning several break points with USC serving at 6-5 and again at 7-6, the Bruins failed to convert and USC would go on to win the match 8-6 and take a 1-0 lead heading into singles play.
"I told our guys during the break that there was no way we were out of this match," said Martin. "We won the doubles point against them at the Indoors and they came back to beat us so I didn't see any reason why we couldn't return the favor. One thing I really stressed was the importance of everyone getting out to a strong start in singles. I thought if we could do that, we would have a great chance."
Matin's talk at the intermission appeared to work, as UCLA came out and immediately won five of six first sets. Giron looked to be on his way to victory from the start, taking the first set 6-0 over Gomez at court No. 2. He eventually got the win when Gomez retired due to injury down 0-2 in the second set.
With the score now tied at 1-1, UCLA then moved out to a 2-1 lead following another straight-set victory, this time by Clay Thompson at court No. 5, as he downed Johnson, 6-2, 6-3. With the Bruins now in the lead and up comfortably at most of the remaining courts, the momentum began to shift heavily in UCLA's favor.
The next Bruin point came at court No. 3, where Puget was able to shake off his doubles loss by downing Hanfmann, 6-1, 6-4. The win put UCLA up 3-1 and within a point of clinching the win.
That clinching point was registered at court No. 1, as Novikov used his big serve to dominate his match with Sarmiento, winning 6-4, 6-2, giving UCLA its second win of the year over its cross-town rival.
With the match already decided, USC (22-3; 5-1 Pac-12) was able to pull off wins in the final two matches at court Nos. 4 and 6.
UCLA has earned the No. 1 seed in next week's Pac-12 Championships, April 25-27, in Ojai, Calif. The draw for that tournament will be released in the next few days.
"We're happy but we are by no means satisfied," added Martin. "We beat USC in the final match of the regular season last year and then ended up losing to them in the finals of Ojai. That was a horrible feeling. Our goal is to win the Pac-12 Tournament and then hopefully go on to win a national championship."
#3 UCLA 4, #4 USC 3
Apr 19, 2013 at Los Angeles, CA (Los Angeles Tennis Center)
1. #43 Giron/Novikov (UCLA) def. #32 Hanfmann/Sarmiento (USC) 8-6
2. #49 Gomez/Quiroz (USC) def. #76 Puget/Sell (UCLA) 8-6
3. Max De Vroome/Johnson (USC) def. Alex Brigham/Mkrtchian (UCLA) 8-3
USC Wins Doubles Point
1. #27 Dennis Novikov (UCLA) def. #14 Ray Sarmiento (USC) 6-4, 6-2
2. #20 Marcos Giron (UCLA) def. #4 Emilio Gomez (USC) 6-0, 2-0, retired
3. #22 Adrien Puget (UCLA) def. #57 Yannick Hanfmann (USC) 6-1, 6-4
4. #33 Roberto Quiroz (USC) def. #71 Dennis Mkrtchian (UCLA) 5-7, 6-3, (10-4)
5. Clay Thompson (UCLA) def. #65 Eric Johnson (USC) 6-2, 6-3
6. #96 Jonny Wang (USC) def. Karue Sell (UCLA) 6-4, 6-4
USC 22-3; 5-1 Pac-12; National ranking #4
UCLA 22-1; 7-0 Pac-12; National ranking #3
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1,2); Singles (2,5,3,1,6,4)