Feature: Bruins Advance To Quarterfinals

May 18, 2007

By Ajaybir Behniwal
Daily Bruin

May 18, 2007

Los Angeles, CA (CSTV U-WIRE) -- With the thought of a potential quarterfinal matchup against No. 1 Georgia in the back of its mind, and the noise coming from the neighboring courts where the Bulldogs were playing, the No. 9 UCLA men's tennis team was able to pull off its third consecutive 4-0 shutout victory in this year's NCAA Championships.

The Bruins (22-3) blocked out all external factors in their round of 16 match against No. 8 Oklahoma State to set up a match that each member of the team has been eagerly anticipating.

'I'm really looking forward to that match because it's going to be a great atmosphere and some quality tennis,' said senior Benjamin Kohlloeffel, who was announced as the Pac-10 Player of the Year on Wednesday.

The Bruins got off to what UCLA coach Billy Martin considered to be great starts in both singles and doubles play, jumping ahead of their opponents quickly while also adjusting to the change in speed of the courts at the host site in Athens, Ga.

But Martin was by no means ready to relax until sophomore Michael Look sealed the win for the Bruins with a 7-5, 6-3 win over the Cowboys' Nathan Byrnes after UCLA junior Mathieu Dehaine and senior Philipp Gruendler had also recorded wins.

'I felt comfortable, I felt good, but I'm always worried,' Martin said.

Perhaps the greater worry for Martin will come in the next day or two prior to the face-off against Georgia on its own home courts.

The Bulldogs (29-0) have yet to lose a match all season - with their last loss dating back to the NCAA Championship match against Pepperdine last season - and have five players ranked in the top 100 including No. 1 John Isner, No. 12 Travis Helgeson and No. 14 Luis Flores.

Helgeson has provided the Bulldogs with perhaps the missing link from last year's team, after transferring from Texas to join Georgia this season, but the team's leader, Isner, is by no means a stranger to Kohlloeffel.

Both are at the forefront of college tennis and have been for the past few years. Though Kohlloeffel is ranked No. 4 and is the defending national champion, he has a great respect for Isner and is anticipating the matchup against the familiar opponent. The two faced off at the 2005 National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, with Kohlloeffel edging out a 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(6) win over Isner.

Isner is also ranked at No. 1 in doubles with Flores, a feat the Bruin senior accomplished just last season in both facets of his game.

'I respect him as a player and he's very good,' Kohlloeffel said. 'They had a couple thousand people out there today, so I can imagine it will be loud on Saturday also.'

Martin's philosophy with his team in this postseason run, as with those in the past, has been for them to focus on the match at hand before looking too far ahead. Those words rang repeatedly in Look's mind while the cheers of Georgia fans nearby echoed on his court.

'Coach kept saying, 'One match at a time. One match at a time,'' Look said. 'I think our whole team really took that advice and that's why we were able to get through this match as easily as we did.'

The Bruins will now get a day off to prepare for what is likely to be their biggest match of the season, and one which several have already counted the Bruins out of, giving them no chance to advance to the semifinals.

'If we get the win, it'll be something we remember for the rest of our lives,' Martin said. 'If we lose, it's to be expected by most everyone else. Not too many people are expecting us to win.'

(C) 2007 Daily Bruin via CSTV U-WIRE

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