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No. 17 Men's Tennis Overcome by No. 9 USC, 4-3

Feb 28, 2021
Keegan Smith (Photo: Jesus Ramirez)

LOS ANGELES – In a match that lasted nearly four hours, the No. 17 UCLA men's tennis team was overcome Sunday at Los Angeles Tennis Center by No. 9 USC, 4-3.

The non-conference loss snapped a 68-match home winning streak the Bruins (3-2) had possessed since May 8, 2015. UCLA dropped the doubles point and the first completed singles match before the front-court trio of Drew Baird, Ben Goldberg and Keegan Smith ran off consecutive singles wins against top-26 opponents to establish a 3-2 lead. Lodewijk Weststrate and Jake Sands turned in comeback, three-set wins for the Trojans (10-3), however, making the difference.

Smith defeated the nation's No. 1 player, Daniel Cukierman, to notch his top-court point.

The doubles point was up in the air throughout a session that saw each of the three courts tied deep into play. USC's pairs on Courts 1 and 3 closed strong, though, as each took the final two games for a 6-4 victory. Sean Holt and Colter Smith of the Trojans took the final five games on the bottom court to defeat Connor Rapp and Bryce Pereira before No. 1 Cukierman and Riley Smith closed out Smith and Patrick Zahraj.

Bradley Frye, who picked up the lone opening set for USC, moved quickly to defeat No. 109 Sam Feit, 6-2, 6-3, for a 2-0 lead.

Baird then started a run on wins for the Bruins in the stadium courts. The sophomore picked up his third win in a row and best of his career in terms of ranking, 6-3, 6-4 against No. 19 Riley Smith on Court 2.

Keegan Smith was next off, as he improved his career singles record against Cukierman to 2-2 with a 6-2, 7-5 decision up top. It avenged a three-set ITA Kickoff Weekend loss on Jan. 25, Smith's only setback of the season thus far. Three of his four wins have now come against top-50 opponents.

Goldberg also recorded his best-career win against a ranked opponent, outlasting No. 26 Mor Bulis in a first-set tiebreaker before closing him out for a 7-6(5), 6-2 result. Goldberg's win gave UCLA its first lead of the afternoon.

With first-set wins under their belts, Zahraj and Roscoe Bellamy attempted to seal the victory. Weststrate was first to force a third set on Court 5, however, and Sands soon followed Court 6. Weststrate took advantage of his new life against Bellamy, rolling to a 5-7, 6-4, 6-0 win to tie the overall score.

Zahraj could not seal his second 4-3 win over USC in as many tries, as Sands earned an early break of serve and kept his opponent at a distance the rest of the way for a 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 victory.

The Bruins will have a chance to bounce back and start a new home winning streak Tuesday, when it welcomes UNLV to LATC. First serve is set for 2 p.m., PT.

Tennis Match Results
USC vs UCLA
2/28/2021 at Los Angeles, CA
(Los Angeles Tennis Center)

#9 USC 4, #17 UCLA 3

Singles competition
1. #10 Keegan Smith (UCLA) def. #1 Daniel Cukierman (USC) 6-2, 7-5
2. Drew Baird (UCLA) def. #19 Riley Smith (USC) 6-3, 6-4
3. Ben Goldberg (UCLA) def. #26 Mor Bulis (USC) 7-6(5), 6-2
4. Bradley Frye (USC) def. #109 Sam Feit (UCLA) 6-2, 6-3
5. Lodewijk Weststrate (USC) def. Roscoe Bellamy (UCLA) 5-7, 6-4, 6-0
6. Jake Sands (USC) def. Patrick Zahraj (UCLA) 5-7, 7-5, 6-3

Doubles competition
1. #1 Daniel Cukierman/Riley Smith def. Keegan Smith/Patrick Zahraj (UCLA) 6-4
2. Drew Baird/Sam Feit (UCLA) vs. Mor Bulis/Bradley Frye (USC) 5-5, unfinished
3. Sean Holt/Colter Smith (USC) def. Bryce Pereira/Connor Rapp (UCLA) 6-4

Match Notes:
USC 10-3; National ranking #9
UCLA 3-2; National ranking #17
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1); Singles (4,2,1,3,5,6)