WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – In a match fought tooth and nail through three tiebreakers, the UCLA pair of Martin Redlicki and Evan Zhu claimed the 13th NCAA doubles title in program history Monday at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex. The duo defeated Martin Joyce and Mikael Torpegaard of Ohio State, 6-7 (8), 7-6 (4), 1-0 (9).
The championship represents the second for Redlicki, who teamed with Mackenzie McDonald for the 2016 crown and joins Bob Perry (1953, 1954) and Ian Crookenden (1965, 1966) as two-time Bruin champions. It marks the first for Zhu.
"Every set literally came down to one or two points," said Zhu. "We each had set points in the first set before they won it. We won the second set and then we each had match points in the third. We were just able to win the last point."
The counterparts remained on serve throughout the first set, culminating in the first tiebreaker of the day. Joyce-Torpegaard came out with a fury, capturing the first five points of the first-to-seven tone setter. As quickly as momentum moved in favor of the Ohio State tandem, it slid back to Redlicki-Zhu, which knotted it up at five apiece. The Bruin pair held set point at 7-6 and 8-7, but was unable to bury the Buckeye duo, which claimed the first frame.
The Bruins earned a big break to take a 2-1 lead in the second set, only to have the Buckeyes put the match back on serve at 4-4. Once again, a tiebreaker proved necessary. This time, with its season on the line, Redlicki-Zhu took charge with a championship performance.
"It was just like the match yesterday when [Joyce-Torpegaard] beat [UCLA pair Austin Rapp-Keegan Smith]," said UCLA head coach Billy Martin. "A few points here or there were the difference."
The match tiebreaker represented the third of the tournament for the Bruins and the second in as many days for the Buckeyes. Redlicki-Zhu jumped out to a 4-2 lead, but the 25th-ranked Ohio State combination countered to get back on serve. The Bruin twosome appeared poised to capture the win with the first three-point lead of the set at 8-5, but again, the Buckeye team showed its own resilience. Joyce-Torpegaard, in fact, found itself on match point at 9-8. Zhu and Redlicki each came up clutch with back-to-back forehand winners, though, putting championship point on the racket of Zhu. The sophomore's serve was too hot to handle.
Zhu leapt into the arms of Redlicki, who capped his storied career with the victory.
"There is no better way to go out at the end," said Redlicki. "I was just telling Evan that a month ago we were ranked No. 79 in the country and we couldn't really find our footing. We really hit our stride and got into the tournament as one of the last teams in."
Redlicki-Zhu, which was playing in its first tournament of the season, improved to 23-5 after winning 14 of 15 matches down the stretch. The pair received an at-large berth in the field after watching its Oracle/ITA ranking jump 44 spots to No. 29 in the final installment before the championships.
"We knew we were one of the best teams in the tournament," said Redlicki. "[And] if we got to work, good things would happen."
UCLA MEN'S TENNIS NCAA DOUBLES CHAMPIONS
1950 – H. Flam & G. Garrett
1953 – L. Huebner & B. Perry
1954 – R. Livingston & B. Perry
1960 – A. Fox & L. Nagler
1965 – A. Ashe & I. Crookenden
1966 – I. Crookenden & C. Pasarell
1971 – J. Borowiak & H. Rahim
1976 – P. Fleming & F. Taygan
1978 – J. Austin & B. Nichols
1988 – P. Galbraith & B. Garrow
1996 – J. Gimelstob & S. Muskatirovic
2016 – M. McDonald & M. Redlicki
2018 – M. Redlicki & E. Zhu