LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- The No. 2 USC men"s tennis team played through its second heart-stopping match against crosstown rival UCLA in less than a week, but it was the No. 3 Bruins that snagged the tight victory in this one. Matched up at USC's Marks Stadium after tangling in Seattle last weekend in the semifinal round of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, the No. 2 Trojans and the No. 3 Bruins took it down to the wire once again. This time, UCLA turned the tide and pulled out the 4-3 win over USC in a nonconference match tonight. USC goes to 12-2 overall with the loss.
USC cranked up the pressure in doubles when #48 Hanfmann/Sarmiento answered a UCLA win on court two to even things up. Hanfmann/Sarmiento broke out of a 4-4 tie with Giron/Novikov at the No. 1 spot and kept their foot on the gas to win 8-5. That put all eyes on court three, where USC's #49 Gomez/Johnson was digging out of a deep hold. The Trojans had trailed Brigham/Mkrtchian 2-5 before the USC pair battled back to level it up 6-6. It would roll on into a tiebreaker to decide the double point, and the Bruins got it done with a 7-1 win in the breaker to lift UCLA to a 1-0 lead in the match.
That 1-0 deficit would hamper the Trojans this time around, with the UCLA singles lineup slightly adjusted from Sunday's clash in Seattle. Tonight's battle featured rematches at the Nos. 1-3 and No. 6 singles spots, with new face-offs on courts four and five. The only rematch to wind up equal to the last was at No. 6, where USC sophomore Eric Johnson successfully fended off Karue Sell's comeback hopes for a 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 win that had evened the score 3-3.
A lot of drama had gone down to get to that point. USC #12 junior Ray Sarmiento would find vengeance against UCLA's #58 Dennis Novikov on court one, serving up a straight-set victory 6-4, 6-3 to ring up USC's first singles win of the day. On court three, however, USC's #23 Roberto Quiroz was upended by UCLA's #42 Adrien Puget 6-3, 6-2 to counter a three-set loss to Quiroz by the Bruin in Seattle. That made it 2-1 UCLA.
At the No. 4 spot, USC's #94 Yannick Hanfmann was matched up against Clay Thompson. After some first-set nerves settled out for the Trojan sophomore, Hanfmann got down to business and left Thompson well out of reach with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 win that had the match even again 2-2. At the No. 5 spot, UCLA had moved #55 Dennis Mkrtchian down a spot to face USC's #109 freshman Max de Vroome, who had faced Thompson up in Seattle. De Vroome grabbed the first set but would fall in a second-set tiebreaker to bring up a third. There, de Vroome fell behind an early break, and Mkrtchian held on for the 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3 comeback that bumped UCLA ahead 3-2.
That prompted Eric Johnson to kick things into gear on court six, where he took down Sell for the equalizer. With it locked up 3-3, attention turned to the No. 2 spot, where USC's #10 junior Emilio Gomez was in another three-set battle with UCLA's #13 Marcos Giron. Giron had forced the third set with a late push in the second, and in the third things were getting tense. Gomez got up a break, 5-3, only to have Giron come back to 5-5. Gomez held serve next, but so did Giron, and it would come down to a tiebreaker to decide it all. In the tiebreak, Giron broke a 2-2 tie with four straight points to heap pressure on Gomez. He'd fight off one match point, but Giron finished it off next to harness a 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3) comeback victory that wrapped up a 4-3 win for the visiting Bruins.
USC's next action takes the Trojans to San Diego for a Feb. 28 matchup against the Toreros at 1:30 p.m. before turning to doubles play at the Pacific Coast Doubles Championships.
#3 UCLA 4, #2 USC 3
Feb. 22, 2013 - Marks Stadium
(1) #48 Hanfmann/Sarmiento (USC) def. Giron/Novikov (UCLA) - 8-5
(2) Puget/Sell (UCLA) def. de Vroome/Quiroz (USC) - 8-3
(3) Brigham/Mkrtchian (UCLA) def. #49 Gomez/Johnson (USC) - 9-8 (1)
UCLA wins doubles point.
Order of finish: 2, 1, 3
(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) #48 Eric Johnson (USC) def. Karue Sell (UCLA) - 6-1, 4-6, 6-4
Order of finish: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 2*