The Bruins are set to face off against the nation’s top team, which also happens to be their rival from across town.
No. 25 UCLA men’s tennis (9-4, 2-0 Pac-12) will square off against longtime rivals No. 1 USC (13-1, 2-0) at the Los Angeles Tennis Center on Thursday. The Trojans’ nine-game winning streak is set to clash with the Bruins’ undefeated home record that dates back to May 8, 2015, in the rivals’ first matchup of the season.
“We’re used to the home surface, the surroundings and familiar faces in the crowd that can calm the guys down, especially when they’re in a close match,” coach Billy Martin said. “I think it makes a huge difference.”
Amid coronavirus concerns, UCLA Athletics decided to suspend spectator attendance at all of its events in a statement Tuesday, and the Bruins will now have to face their rivals behind closed doors.
UCLA will enter the rivalry match on the heels of a 6-1 win against Liberty on Monday. The Bruins built a 4-0 lead to clinch their victory before playing out the remaining three matches. Junior Bryce Pereira said the team’s ability to play out all matches was a good mental test for everyone.
“Matches can just change within a few minutes,” Pereira said. “You can be up on all the courts and then all of the sudden, all of the courts around you lose and it could come down to your court.”
USC won the ITA national team indoor championship in February, a tournament that saw UCLA notch a 1-2 record. Martin said his squad is prepared to take on one of the best teams in the nation.
“We got to see USC play quite a few matches back there and we’re so familiar with a lot of their guys,” Martin said. “Most of those guys we know pretty darn well.”
Last year, the Bruins defeated the Trojans 4-3 in Westwood in a match that was clinched by a singles win from then-freshman Patrick Zahraj.
Sophomore Roscoe Bellamy said the team is ready to have another fun match with its crosstown foe.
“Playing ‘SC is playing ‘SC and, no matter what, it’s going to be tough and it’s going to be fun,” Bellamy said. “And shoutout to Patrick Zahraj for that clinch last year. That was something else.”
Martin said there can be lots of emotion when facing their rivals but that his team needs to properly channel the energy.
“For me, this match comes down to a lot of emotion and who can control that emotion,” Martin said. “I didn’t think we were the favored team last year and we had a little magical ending here so I’m hoping we can pull off some of that same magic here this year.”
The match is scheduled to begin at noon.