UCLA Suffers 4-1 Loss to USC in NCAA Semifinals
May 21, 2012
Athens, Ga. - The fourth-seeded UCLA men's tennis team saw its season come to an end on Monday evening, as the Bruins fell 4-1 to top-seeded USC in the semifinals of the NCAA Championships at Georgia's Dan Magill Tennis Complex. The Bruin men (26-4) were looking to duplicate the performance of the UCLA women's tennis team, which booked its place in Tuesday's final following a thrilling 4-3 win over USC earlier in the day.
Monday's USC-UCLA showdown marked the fourth meeting this season between the two conference rivals, with USC owning a 2-1 advantage. The Bruins were not able to claim the doubles point in the three prior showdowns and today was no different, as USC took matches at court Nos. 1 and 2 to claim the point. After both teams traded wins at court Nos. 1 and 3, the point was decided at the No. 2 position, where USC's Daniel Nguyen and Raymond Sarmiento pulled out a tiebreaker over Nick Meister and Dennis Novikov, winning 9-8(6).
Not long after singles began, both teams were called off the courts due to lightning in the area. Rain soon followed and it was eventually determined that the match would resume indoors. The Virginia-Pepperdine match was also moved indoors and with only four available courts, each semifinal was given two courts to continue play. Clay Thompson and Meister were sent on first for UCLA and both players won just two games in their matches, each losing 6-1, 6-1 to Steve Johnson and Sarmiento, respectively.
With UCLA now down 0-3, Novikov and Marcos Giron were next to take the courts. Giron would defeat Emilio Gomez, 6-3, 6-4 to make it 3-1 USC. Novikov, however, was in a tight battle with Nguyen at the No. 4 position. After losing the first set 3-6, Nguyen fought back to take the second 6-3. He and Novikov would remain on serve for nearly the entire third set, eventually going to a tiebreaker. Novikov got down early in the breaker and was never really able to recover, eventually falling 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(3).
"I think it didn't help us the format that we had as far as starting off with 1 and 2," said UCLA head coach Billy Martin of the move indoors. "Those are the two matches that we got off to the worst starts. Right off the bat we're down 3-0. When we played them before, our strength has always been 3 through 6. I felt we played a great match. We know they are a great team and we don't expect to beat them up every time we play them. But we think we have a chance to battle with them and I think we did today. It's disappointing but I'm still really proud of the team. We had a great year."
UCLA's Adrien Puget was on court next to Novikov when play was suspended. He was leading Yannick Hanfmann, 6-3, 3-1 at the No. 5 spot. Bruin freshman Dennis Mkrtchian never did resume his match with Roberto Quiroz at court No. 6. He was leading 3-2 in the first set when play was moved indoors.
USC will meet Virginia in Tuesday's NCAA title match. The Trojans, who beat the Cavaliers in last year's final, are going for their fourth-straight national championship.
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