Men’s tennis can’t come back against UCLA

The No. 12 USC men’s tennis team fell to No. 6 UCLA 5-2 on Tuesday in a non-conference crosstown showdown in Westwood.

This was USC’s first outdoor loss in the season, as the previous two both came in the ITA Indoor Championships.

The Bruins clinched the match after a three-set win on court 4 by senior Karue Sell over freshman Jake DeVine.

The match started off tight at doubles. On court 2, UCLA duo Karue Sell and Joseph Di Giulio battled to beat freshman Jack Jaede and senior Max de Vroome 6-2 after pulling out a 4-0 streak. On court 1, junior Nick Crystal and freshman Laurens Verboven were able to upset the third team in the nation, Mackenzie McDonald and Martin Redlicki, with a 6-4 win. The Trojans were up 4-1 before the Bruins tied back at 4-all. After holding serve, UCLA saved two match points, bringing it to the deciding point. There, Crystal was able to use his experience and, with a backhand winner, tied the doubles score.

It was all left to court 3, where UCLA’s Maxime Cressy and Gage Brymer were up a break and serving for the match against freshman Jake DeVine and junior Rob Bellamy. At 5-4 and 30-all, the Bruins pulled out a great defensive point that forced the Trojans into an unforced error, before a return error by DeVine awarded the doubles point to UCLA.

At singles, the situation didn’t change. On court 6, Jaede couldn’t do much against Di Giulio, who gave the Bruins the second point thanks to his 6-1, 6-1 win. On court 1, No. 65 de Vroome lost the first set 6-2 to No.19 McDonald. After a close start with no break in the second set, the Bruins managed to win the second set 6-4, giving the third point to UCLA, which was just one point away from winning the match.

Meanwhile, all the other matches were close. On court 2, No. 67 Nick Crystal managed to win the first set against No.36 Redlicki in a close tie-break that ended 7-5 for the Trojans, who battled back from 4-2 to secure the first set. No. 56 Logan Smith faltered in the ninth game by No. 46 Brymer  and was not able to break back, losing the first set 6-4. No. 92 DeVine lost the first set 6-4 to No. 94 Sell, while on court 5, Thibault Forget seemed to had an easy win in his belt, but Logan Staggs was able to come back after being down 1-6, 0-4, tying the second set at 4-4. Both players held serve and the game was tied at 5 all. There the Frenchman was able to hold serve and break his opponent, closing the set 6-1, 7-5, putting the Trojans in the scoreboard.

I got a little bit nervous and [Staggs] played a little better going into rallies,” Forget said. “I was not able to keep on going and finishing the point early. When we went to 6-5, I had good energy to reproduce what I did in the first set.”

On court 2, Crystal managed to win the second set 6-2, closing the gap in the score. It was all left up to courts 3 and 4, with the Trojans called to win both courts to complete what would have been an amazing comeback. With all the eyes of the crowd toward court 4, where USC had won the second set 6-4, home favorite Sell was able to play his experience against DeVine, clinching the match with the score of 6-4, 4-6, 6-1. On court 3, the match went on, and it ended with a win by UCLA with the score of 4-6, 6-2, 6-7(8).

“It’s always a battle between us,” Crystal said. “A takeaway is that we can compete with them. It’s the first time for a lot of freshmen playing UCLA. It’s good to see the environment. They were always battling and it was a close match all the way through.”

USC is now 7-3 overall and the team is now heading to the Pacific Coast Doubles Tournament on Thursday.