Originally Posted by SoCal10s
the thing I'm talking about is how does Clay go from playing #1 in his sophomore year and drop to #5 the next without being down in the dumps injured ? and he didn't really slump ... and now it looks like he might be at the top spot again or who knows what Billy will do next..
I can tell you how. During his sophomore year (the 2011-2012 season), there were many factors that determined that particular lineup. Let's look at some of those things and at each individual starter:
-Daniel Kosakowski went pro
-Nick Meister, although a fifth year with a ton of experience, was just coming back from surgery and a redshirted season. Everyone knew he had the talent, fight, and character to play the #1 spot, which he did for most of the season, but playing him at #2 was the safer and smarter choice
-Novikov enrolled in January and had not proven himself yet. He didn't have the time to get himself acclimated to the college tennis level in the fall like the other freshmen and it's hard as a coach to insert an unproven freshman at the top spot, no matter how much potential he has.
-Giron broke his wrist at the All-American tournament. He didn't really resume training until early winter I believe. If this injury had not occurred, I think Billy would have considered playing him at #3 or even #2, considering his tremendous junior accomplishments and being the #1 blue chip recruit in the nation. In any case, putting him at the #1 spot would have been a big risk and a lot for any freshman to handle.
-As for Puget, I think the general consensus regarding this newcomer was that he was good but no one knew exactly how good. He had previously made the semis of the Aus Open juniors and was rock solid at the #4/5 spot his freshman year, but didn't get the chance to prove himself against the top ranked players. Biggest win of his freshman year was over #46 ranked Ryan Thacher of Stanford.
-Mkrtchian was the less touted of the two freshmen recruits and although he had a huge forehand, his backhand wing (or lack thereof) was clearly a liability that had a lot of room for improvement.
So it's not too surprising that Clay was a good candidate for the #1 position that year. 6'6", a monstrous forehand, a never-say-die attitude, and great composure under pressure. He was no Steve Johnson, but considering the circumstances he was a good option. Last year, however, all the players that had previously played below him ended up really hitting their strides and proving they deserved their spots at the top half of the lineup. Socaltennis already pointed this out. Novikov obviously showed that he's a world class talent with his big US Open win, Giron really came into his own by taking out some top 10 players, Puget showed that he could compete with the best of them, and Mkrtchian had a great fall season. Clay playing #5 was understandable and he even said so himself in an interview that it'd be good for the team to have him serve as a foundation/anchor in the lower half of the lineup. That's what made last year's team so deep.
To conclude, this is my prediction of what UCLA's lineup will be this year:
1) Marcos Giron
2) Clay Thompson
3) Mackenzie McDonald
4) Adrien Puget*
5) Dennis Mkrtchian
6) Karue Sell and Gage Brymer will take turns playing this spot, depending on the matchup
Note* I only put Puget at 4 because he took the fall season off to have surgery on his knee and will be rusty when he returns, otherwise he'd be at 3. I predict that Billy Martin might move him up to the 3 spot by the time NCAAs rolls around. And another thing, just imagine how deep this year's team would be if Novikov didn't turn pro. Scary thought.