ROLLING HILLS ESTATES, Calif. – The UCLA men’s tennis tandem of Spencer Johnson and Emon van Loben Sels claimed the Dennis Rizza Classic doubles championship Sunday morning at the Jack Kramer Club, giving each student-athlete his first title as a Bruin.
Freshman Johnson and redshirt freshman van Loben Sels beat the tournament’s top three seeds – including No. 2-seed Kai Brady/Lucca Liu in the final — en route to the trophy. Johnson and van Loben Sels also turned in standout singles performances, with both reaching the semifinals.
Johnson and van Loben Sels knocked off conference rivals Alex Aney and Ethan Schiffman of California 8-4 in the first round. That set up a quarterfinal-round match with top-seeded Alexander Mandma and Robin Parts of San Diego State, who came up just short against the UCLA pair in an 8-6 result. The semifinals pitted the Bruins against No. 3-seed Noah Berry and Colter Smith of Cal Poly, a matchup Johnson and van Loben Sels controlled to the tune of an 8-3 decision. The final was all Bruins, who prevailed by an 8-2 score.
In singles play, Johnson needed a comeback to get past Mandma in the opening round, securing a 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory. Van Loben Sels topped Conrad Brown of UCSB 6-4, 6-4 to get started. Sophomore Aadarsh Tripathi, the third UCLA player in the field, was felled by the Gauchos’ Luka Mrsic in a 6-3, 6-3 result. Johnson downed Pierre Boullenger of UCSB 6-4, 7-5 in the quarterfinals, while van Loben Sels defeated Oregon’s Zian Vanderstappen 6-1, 6-2. Johnson avenged his teammate in the quarterfinal round, handling Mrsic 6-3, 6-1. Second-seeded Gianluca Brunkow of UCSB stood between van Loben Sels and the semifinals, a spot the Bruin would take in a 6-3, 6-4 showing. Both runs ended there, though, with Johnson falling 7-6(6), 6-2 to eventual champion Carl Emil Overbeck of Cal and van Loben Sels dropping a 6-4, 6-4 decision to USC’s Karl Lee.
Johnson’s debut fall ended with a team-high seven singles wins, against three losses. He also led all UCLA players with six doubles victories, with three losses. Van Loben Sels was second on both lists, going 5-3 in singles and 4-1 in doubles. Tripathi finished 3-3 on the singles courts.