In an error-laden affair with UC Santa Barbara, the UC Irvine Men’s Tennis team lost a close match to the Gauchos, and their heckling fans, on Saturday afternoon at Anteater Tennis Stadium.
However, there were certainly reasons to be proud. Sophomore Andrei Radulescu played a beautiful 6-1, 7-5 match at the net in his number four singles match. And in the number two position, junior Aaron Ellis (21-10 singles) pushed his boundaries as, set after set, he gave his all in the last and most watched match of the game.
UCI Assistant Coach Mike Saunders was very frustrated with the Anteater team after the match, but he found himself acknowledging Ellis’ effort against Gaucho Bijan Hejazi.
Ellis and Hejazi played very similarly. Both favored the baseline and played the role, crucially important in any sport, of being one’s own greatest fan. Although Hejazi beat Ellis 3-6, 7-5 and 6-3, UCI Head Coach Steve Clark felt that the game (and therefore the match as a whole) depended on a few key strokes.
‘It’s just unfortunate,’ Clark said.
The Anteaters (10-10, 2-2 Big West) took a 4-3 blow from the Gauchos (12-9, 4-0). Saunders felt that the team played hard, but not ambitiously, and that this lack of ambition brought on the many errors the Anteaters suffered during the game.
‘I was expecting a little more intensity from you guys,’ Saunders said to the huddled Anteaters.
Much of Saunders’ frustration lay in sophomore Victor Lamm’s number one singles match (6-3, 6-2). Lamm, a brilliant player with overpowering directional control, was outmatched by his opponent’s deep shots and volleys. Lamm’s opponent, Nick Brotman, would bend his body toward the ball as it came to send the ball just over the net, but far enough into Lamm’s court to force him to zigzag across his territory.
‘I tried to pass my first serve [and] play deep,’ Lamm said. ‘I missed too much.’
Lamm’s double-faults were common to much of the Anteater performance. Serving problems contributed greatly to Ellis’ defeat, and played a major role in the loss of the doubles point.
Freshman Trevor Dobson and junior Mustafa Ulukan took an 8-6 defeat against Brotman and his teammate. Dobson twice fumbled the ball into the UCI court, much to his frustration.
‘I missed a couple of volleys that were pretty important,’ Dobson said. ‘I think the early break hurt us.’
Ellis and Radulescu won their doubles match 8-5 with characteristic enthusiasm and energy.
‘We’re not the most technically sound players,’ Radulescu said. ‘So we need that intensity.’ The two fed off of each other to attain a 7-5 win.
Ulukan’s (6-4, 7-5) singles game on the No. 3 position was harsh because of his opponent’s full-court game. Ulukan was able to subdue the loss by means of his ferocity.
‘He’s probably feeling a little off,’ Clark said.
Sophomore Alex Sundling and freshman Shimpei Suzuki both swept their singles matches 6-1, 7-5 and 7-6, 6-4 respectively.
One of Saunders’s reprimands against the team was that they did not assert themselves against heckling Gauchos fans. Had they defended each other, Saunders argued, such psychological defeats as occurred with Lamm, Ellis and Dobson would not have happened.
‘They’re not … extroverts,’ Clark said. ‘They got to have a little more spunk.’
Men’s Tennis will play in the Big West Conference Tournament April 27 to 30 at Indian Wells.