The second-ranked UCLA men’s tennis team (3-0) heads across town this week to participate in the first-ever Pac-12/SEC Challenge this Saturday and Sunday at USC’s Marks Tennis Stadium. This unique two-day event showcases three of the top four teams in the nation. The Bruins will square off against No. 11 Florida on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. That match will be followed by No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 USC at 1:00 p.m. The four teams return to action the following day, with UCLA taking on Georgia at 10:00 a.m. and USC facing Florida (match to begin 15 minutes after the conclusion of the UCLA-Georgia match). There is no cost for admission to any of the matches this weekend. Both of Sunday’s matches will be televised live on the Pac-12 Networks. This the first year of a four-year deal among the four teams to participate in the Pac-12/SEC Challenge. Georgia will host the event next year, followed by UCLA in 2016 and Florida in 2017.
Last Time vs. Florida, Georgia
UCLA takes a 12-1 all-time record against Florida and a 3-12 all-time record against Georgia into this weekend’s action. UCLA last faced Florida in a consolation match at the 2011 USTA/ITA National Team Indoors in Seattle, winning 4-3. The Bruins and Bulldogs last squared off in 2013 at the National Team Indoors in Seattle (4-1 UCLA win).
Bruins Qualify for National Team Indoors
UCLA will be one of 16 teams headed to Houston, Texas next month, as the Bruins recently qualified to play in the 2014 USTA/ITA National Team Indoors following a pair of wins during ITA Kick-Off Weekend. UCLA defeated Wisconsin, 5-0 in the opening round last Saturday at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. The Bruins then downed Texas Tech, 4-0 on Sunday to earn a spot in the tournament. UCLA last won the National Team Indoors in 2001.
UCLA in the ITA Rankings
As a team, UCLA is currently at No. 2 in the ITA Team rankings, trailing only No. 1 Virginia. Georgia, USC and Ohio State round out the top 5. Individually, senior Clay Thompson is the No. 1 player in the nation. He is followed in singles by No. 11 Marcos Giron, No. 62 Mackenzie McDonald, No. 64 Karue Sell and No. 120 Gage Brymer. Giron and McDonald are the lone UCLA doubles team ranked, checking in at No. 10. Complete ITA Rankings can be found HERE.
Thompson is No. 1
Senior Clay Thompson earned the No. 1 ranking in America following a fall season in which he posted an impressive 18-1 record. His lone loss during the fall came in the first round of the ITA All-American Championships in Oklahoma (l. to Axel Alvarez of Oklahoma, 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-1). Thompson would go on to win the back draw at the All-American Championships, beginning a 15-match winning streak. He would go on to claim singles titles at the Southern California Intercollegiates at UCLA, and the National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in Flushing, N.Y. Thompson is the first UCLA player to achieve a No. 1 singles ranking since Benjamin Kohlloeffel in 2007.
NCAA Title Rematch Set for March 6
UCLA and Virginia played an epic match in the final of the NCAA Championships last year in Illinois and the two teams will meet again in Los Angeles on March 6. The Bruins and Cavaliers played in what will likely go down as the most thrilling NCAA Championship match in men’s college tennis history in 2013, as the second-seeded Cavaliers pulled off a 4-3 victory over the top-seeded Bruins at the University of Illinois’ Atkins Tennis Center. Last year’s match was decided by a third set in the final singles match at court No. 3.
UCLA has dominated California recruiting in recent years, as six of the Bruins’ top 8 players hail from the Golden State. Marcos Giron (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) was the nation’s No. 1 recruit when he signed with UCLA in 2011. Freshman Gage Brymer (Irvine, Calif.) was also listed as the nation’s top recruit when he inked his letter-of-intent to join the Bruins. Other top Blue Chip recruits on this year’s team include Clay Thompson (Venice, Calif.), Mackenzie McDonald (Piedmont, Calif.), Dennis Mkrtchian (Reseda, Calif.), and Joseph Di Giulio (Newport Beach, Calif.).
Playing With the Pros
Junior Marcos Giron recently missed the Bruins’ season opener against UC Irvine on Jan. 22 because he was competing in the Royal Lahaina Challenger in Maui. After defeating 2013 Kalamazoo runner-up Jared Donaldson, 7-6(3), 6-3 in the first round, Giron fell to former NCAA Champion Bradley Klahn, 7-6(9), 6-0 in the second round. Klahn would go on to win the tournament in Maui. Senior Clay Thompson received a wild card to play in the Challenger of Dallas next week and will leave following the Bruins’ match with Georgia on Sunday.
Giron on 10-Match Winning Streak
Marcos Giron takes a 10-match winning streak into the Pac-12/SEC Challenge. It started when he won the back draw at the National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in New York in November. He then went on to win the Sherwood Collegiate Cup two weeks ago and then picked up another win in a dual match against Texas Tech last week.