As college sports continue to be pushed back because of the COVID-19 pandemic, professional leagues have restarted. Each Monday, Daily Bruin Sports will highlight a few standout alumni performances from the past week in ongoing leagues as we await the return of university athletics.
Jennifer Brady, Singles, WTA
UCLA Bruins may not have the opportunity to claim another title until at least 2021, but former UCLA women’s tennis alumna Jennifer Brady grabbed her first career WTA title in the first tennis tournament in the United States since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Brady defeated Jil Teichmann 6-3, 6-4 in straight sets at the Top Seed Open in Lexington, Kentucky to take first place. Her victory comes after sending sensation Coco Gauff home in the semifinals after sweeping two sets 6-2 and 6-4.
Brady only played two years at UCLA from 2013-2015, but in her short time, she achieved Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year and helped lead the Bruins to their most recent NCAA women’s tennis national championship in 2014.
At just 25 years old, Brady ranks in the top 75 in both singles and doubles in the world. With this tournament’s win being a tuneup for the U.S. Open at the end of the month, Brady may finish August in uncharted territory.
Kyle Anderson, Memphis Grizzlies and Russell Westbrook, Houston Rockets, NBA
The NBA playoffs are set, and UCLA men’s basketball alumnus Kyle Anderson and the Memphis Grizzlies fell just short.
Not without a fight from Anderson.
The former last pick in the first round posted 10 points and nine assists – one shy of his career high – in a 126-122 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in the first-ever playoffs play-in game in NBA history. The forward added two steals and one block in his 27 minutes, but also finished with six turnovers.
Russell Westbrook, however, helped guide the Houston Rockets to a 44-28 record, 4-4 in the NBA bubble and the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. But Westbrook, like Anderson, may find himself not playing any playoff games for a different reason: injury.
The point guard did not play in the Rocket’s regular-season finale Friday after straining his right quadriceps muscle in a game against the San Antonio Spurs.
One thing is certain: The Rockets are going to miss Westbrook – who averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 1.6 steals per game in the regular season – against the Oklahoma City Thunder and opposing point guard Chris Paul in the first round of the playoffs.
Traded for one another before the season began, Westbrook versus Paul has always been a premier playoff matchup. Thus, NBA fans patiently await Westbrook’s return, allowing sports fans to saturate in the storylines that they’ve been deprived of for months.
Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees and James Kaprielian, Oakland Athletics, MLB
With a 20-0 record in his last 27 starts – and 4-0 on the season – New York Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole is just four games away from tying an all-time record that has not been broken in more than 80 years.
The UCLA baseball ace from 2009-2011 went seven innings against the Boston Red Sox in a 10-3 victory Friday. He struck out eight batters, walked none and allowed only one run.
The Yankees pitcher is four wins shy of a record set in the 1936-1937 seasons by Carl Hubbell – 24 consecutive decisions without a loss. Meanwhile, his 27-game unbeaten starting streak is tied for fourth-longest in MLB history, three shy of Roger Clemons’ record of 30 in 1998-1999.
Another former Bruin pitcher made his Major League debut Sunday as James Kaprielian pitched two innings for the Oakland Athletics in its 15-3 victory over the San Francisco Giants. The right-hander threw two innings in the rout, recording his first career strikeout in the process.
Kaprielian’s debut did not come without its blemishes, though, as the first batter he faced, Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford – another former Bruin – took him deep for Crawford’s first home run of 2020.
In the Giants’ defeat, another former UCLA baseball player made his pitching debut when catcher Tyler Heineman – a Bruin from 2010-2012 – tossed a scoreless top of the ninth inning.