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College Tennis Tournament at UCLA : Jensen Has Both Hands Full and Empty in Win

Luke Jensen came, he saw, and he conquered. Kind of.

Jensen, a USC sophomore, spent 2 hours 35 minutes trading shots with New Mexico’s Jack Griffin before emerging with a 6-7, 6-4, 6-3 victory Thursday at the L.A. Tennis Center.

Dual Hands Luke definitely had his hands full in the first round of the Volvo/All-American Tennis Championships. More importantly, Jensen, who earned his nickname by playing ambidextrously, thinks he emerged with his arms and legs intact.

That probably was the real victory. Jensen spent almost as much time on the court as he did chasing Griffin’s shots.

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“Well, my knee popped out,” Jensen said. “My arm was going through the fence. I lost my racket. . . . it was just a weird match.”

Just another day on the courts.

His first strange encounter was with the fence during the first set. Jensen was chasing Griffin’s smash when he smacked into the back fence. His racket flew out of his hand and went through an opening in the fence between the courts.

“And then I didn’t have a racket,” Jensen said. “And (the umpire) started timing me (for delay).

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Someone retrieved the racket, and Jensen came back for more. But Griffin’s overhead had tied the set, 4-4. The players stayed on serve until the tiebreaker.

In all, Jensen squandered one set point, and Griffin needed four before he won the first set.

It started to look as if Jensen, second seeded, was going to join Pepperdine’s Robby Weiss on the sidelines. The third-seeded Weiss lost to Tennessee’s Shelby Cannon in another first-round match.

But Jensen decided to keep the list of those upset in the first round very short. In the second set, he took a 5-2 lead and fought off Griffin’s rally to take it 6-4.

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The final set was almost a repeat of the second. Jensen won it, 6-3, after having led, 5-2.

That might sound routine, but nothing was routine Thursday. When Griffin was serving at 2-4 in the third, Jensen fell to the court while trying to return serve. His right knee popped out, but Jensen walked it off.

“I’m pleased that I won,” Jensen said. “And I’m pleased that I had a tough match. My teammates told me he was a good player.

“New Mexico may not have a big program like USC, UCLA or Georgia . . . " Jensen smiled at Georgia Coach Dan Magill who was sitting in the interview room listening.

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New Mexico isn’t exactly a tennis power, but Griffin, from La Jolla, has a victory over Joey Blake of Arkansas to his credit. And many of Jensen’s teammates played Griffin in Southern California sectional competition.

Jensen grew up in Ludington and East Grand Rapids, Mich., and was one of the most highly recruited juniors in 1985. He wavered between UCLA and USC, picking the Trojans on a “gut feeling.”

“The first semester last year was an adjustment,” he said. “I was so far from home. I had an apartment to myself and I only saw my parents on holidays.”

But the transition became easier once USC started playing dual matches last spring. Jensen finished the season ranked No. 7 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Coaches Assn. poll. Last summer, he traveled to Wimbledon and took the bronze medal at the Goodwill Games in Moscow.

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“On the tour, you can wake up and think about the match all day,” he said. “But today I had a math test and a Russian test. I was taking tests until 12 today. Then I had to prepare myself for coming over here.”

Little did Jensen know that he’d need all the preparation he could get.

Tournament Notes

In other first-round action, top-seeded Richey Reneberg of SMU beat Jonas Ehrlin of Weber State, 6-1, 7-6. Others advancing were No. 4 Stefan Kruger of SMU, No. 5 Philip Johnson of Georgia, No. 6 Ville Jansson of Northeast Louisiana and No. 7 Patrick McEnroe of Stanford.

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