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Men's Tennis Begins 2021 Season Ranked No. 18

Jan 14, 2021
(Photo: Jesus Ramirez)

TEMPE, Ariz. – The UCLA men's tennis team will begin the 2021 dual-match season slotted at No. 18 in the Oracle ITA team rankings, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association announced Thursday. The preseason player rankings, meanwhile, feature three Bruins.

Keegan Smith starts the campaign at No. 10, while Govind Nanda (No. 22) and Sam Feit (No. 109) also earned singles rankings. The doubles combination of Nanda and Smith checks in at No. 13.

UCLA begins its 2021 schedule Friday at the Pepperdine Invite with three fellow Los Angeles-area programs. Utilizing a mock-dual format, student-athletes will face off in singles and doubles matches over the three-day event. The Bruins will meet Pepperdine Friday at 10 a.m., PT, Loyola Marymount Saturday at 11 a.m. and USC Sunday at 10 a.m. Fans will not be permitted.

Dual matches are scheduled to begin Jan. 23.

Before the 2019-2020 season was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic, UCLA won its final five matches to bring its record to 9-4. It was a year of milestones for the Bruins, who extended their home (66) and Pac-12 (31) winning streaks and saw Billy Martin record the 600th win of his head-coaching career, which is entering its 28th year in 2021.

Smith will try to become just the fourth four-time All-American in program history, following in the footsteps of Brian Teacher, Ferdi Taygan and Marcel Freeman. Freeman accomplished the feat most recently, in 1982. Smith registered a 16-5 singles record in 2020 and completed the season at a career-best No. 4 in the singles rankings. He was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week on March 4, after leading UCLA to a 2-0 start in Pac-12 play at Washington and Oregon. Smith played the entirety of the dual-match season on Court 1.

Nanda, the 2020 ITA Southwest Region Player to Watch, is also coming off a career-best singles performance. He reached a career high of No. 10 in the individual rankings, going 13-4 along the way. Seven of his wins came against nationally-ranked opponents, most notably No. 9 Mor Bulis of USC, No. 29 Juan Pablo Grassi Mazzuchi of UCF, No. 43 Jack Davis of Washington and No. 49 Jack Molloy of California.

The No. 13 ranking is the best showing for Nanda/Smith. As a team, Nanda and Smith went 12-4 and clinched a team-high five doubles points for the Bruins in 2020. In an ITA Indoors consolation match against No. 10 NC State, Nanda/Smith defeated No. 12 Tadas Babelis/Yannai Barkai to secure the initial point of what would be Martin's 600th victory.

Feit joins UCLA as a graduate transfer from Gonzaga, where he reached his previous career high of No. 118 in the singles rankings in 2020. During his four years in Spokane, Wash., Feit posted a 75-36 singles record that included a 16-7 mark last season. He twice received All-WCC recognition from the West Coast Conference, in 2018 (Honorable Mention) and 2019 (First Team).