(Photo by Korbin Placet/Daily Bruin senior staff, photoillustration by Hannah Ye/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Billy Martin never would have brought up the fact that he reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 1977. But when his son suggested that the two of them go to Wimbledon, Martin explained that, as a former quarterfinalist, he’d received – and turned down – many invitations to sit in the tournament’s prestigious Royal Box.

(UCLA Athletics)

“I was like, ‘You never told me this?’” Travis Martin said.

But it’s nothing new for Travis Martin to hear about his father's playing days in roundabout ways. Every time they attend a tennis event, where everyone knows Billy Martin, Travis Martin finds out more about his dad’s career.

“We can’t even walk through a room without having to stop to talk to every single person,” Travis Martin said. “I’m there and I’m hearing stuff and I’m like, ‘What the heck? He would never tell me that.’”

Sometimes, when his son asks, Billy Martin will share a brief clip of his playing career, only to quickly change the subject.

Through the years, though, Travis Martin, now a junior on the men’s tennis team, has pieced together his father’s story.

Billy Martin enjoyed an illustrious amateur career that led Inside Tennis Magazine to name him the Junior Tennis Player of the Century. He was the national 14-and-under champion at 13, the 16-and-under champion at 15 and the 18-and-under champion at 17.

After high school, Martin headed to UCLA, earning comparisons to Jimmy Connors as he led the Bruins to a national championship and won the NCAA singles title as a freshman.

(UCLA Athletics)

Then he left for the pro tour, eventually reaching the Wimbledon singles quarterfinals in 1977 and capturing three minor doubles championships. But dysplasia in his hips left him in immense pain and forced him to retire in 1982 at the age of 27.

(UCLA Athletics)

After spending 11 years as an assistant coach at UCLA under Glenn Bassett, he took over the head coaching job in 1994. In the 23 years since, he has coached 26 different All-Americans and guided the Bruins to a national team championship, a national doubles championship and two national singles championships.

The 1996 ITA Coach of the Year, Martin has earned conference coach of the year honors four times and is the only coach to have reached the NCAA round of 16 every year since the tournament format was changed in 1999.

And with Wednesday’s win over the University of San Francisco, Billy Martin became one of just four active major-conference coaches with 500 career wins.

NEXT JIMMY CONNORS or not, Billy Martin didn’t make for a perfect Goliath. He wasn’t big, but rather a quick, heady player who Bassett described as the most physically fit in the country. He didn’t miss shots, he made opponents beat him.

But now George Hardie was about to do just that – beat the great Billy Martin – and it was quite the David and Goliath story.

Hardie, a senior from Southern Methodist seeded 11th in the NCAA singles tournament, had steamrolled through the first two sets of the 1975 NCAA final, dropping just one game to the top-seeded Martin, a UCLA freshman hailed as the next tennis great.

Martin, playing in his 14th match in the past six days, was physically and mentally spent, and the crowd at the H.E. Butt Tennis Center in Corpus Christi, Texas was rollicking as their home-state underdog cruised towards the NCAA title. But some of Hardie’s college buddies rollicked a little too hard, taunting Martin as he prepared for the third set.

“They were just mocking me, sort of to the point where it was just rubbing dirt in my face,” Martin said. “They were giving me all sorts of crud even though the match was pretty much over. And it irked me just enough that I got a little bit of a second wind.”

With nothing to lose, Martin went to work in the third set, taking control of play as Hardie began to swing more defensively. Martin took advantage of the no-ad scoring system, as Hardie recalls, winning four games on the deuce point to take the set 6-3.

The players took a break between the third and fourth sets. When they returned, Hardie found that Martin, now with the momentum on his side, was “a different player.”

Martin won the next two sets with identical 6-3 scores to seize the national singles title and complete a comeback that still amazes his then-roommate and doubles partner Brian Teacher.

(UCLA Athletics)

“I know how hard it is and how humiliating it is to lose the first two sets 6-0, 6-1,” Teacher said. “You are in such a deep hole that it's almost unimaginable. You can't even think of the hole you're in. You just have to slowly, point by point, claw your way out.”

The national title completed Martin’s tour de force through college tennis, as he turned pro after just one college season. He would never appear higher in the world rankings, however, than he did that March, when he was No. 32. By the end of the year, he was out of the top 60.

“School didn't come easy to me...whereas with tennis, it was something that gave me a little confidence and I felt like I maybe had a chance in the world to do something well.”

Billy Martin

“I think it was probably a big mistake not to stay (at UCLA) at least another year," Martin said. “It was what I had dreamed about but at that time, there were so few young kids out on the pro tour, I really wasn't very happy out there quite honestly."

Leaving college had been the logical progression for Martin, though. His dyslexia had always made school difficult so, from the time he was around 10 years old, he had committed himself fully to tennis.

“School didn't come easy to me,” Martin said. “I would hide in the back and try not to get called on. So I felt very inefficient in the classroom, whereas with tennis, it was something that gave me a little confidence and I felt like I maybe had a chance in the world to do something well.”

He did that thing very well, outworking everybody around him as he rose to the top of the junior circuit.

“You have to have a drive to want to be No. 1,” Teacher said. “His personality was all predicated on getting that spot and being the best he could. ... He knew what he wanted at a very early age and he was very driven and goal-oriented to get that.”

By the time Martin arrived at UCLA, Teacher said, his intense desire to improve permeated his entire life. He was all business, his life consumed 100 percent by tennis.

“I think he had a hard time joking around and having fun,” Teacher said. “He had fun on the court winning and stuff. But to me, it seemed like he didn't have any fun off the court.”

So it's no surprise that when his hip problem ended his playing career, Martin hung on to the sport he loved, returning to UCLA as an assistant under his beloved old coach.

Bassett, who still talks to Martin almost every day, rubbed off on his pupil, whose competitive brashness mellowed as he aged.

“One thing (Bassett) always seemed to do a really good job of – and I didn't, probably, as a younger coach – was staying calm and composed a little bit during matches,” Martin said. “I think I probably got a little bit more excited and my players could see, sort of, my anxiety or disappointment or all that. He was always so level-headed whether we were winning, losing or anything.”

Nowadays, people say the same of Martin, who took over the head coaching job from Bassett in 1994.

John Whitlinger, the Stanford coach from 2005-2014, admired the poise Martin showed in the 2013 NCAA final, when his Bruins appeared to defeat Virginia before the umpire ruled that then-junior Adrien Puget’s foot touched the net on the pennant-winning point. Puget went on to lose his match, and the Bruins fell in an excruciating 4-3 loss.

“The way Billy handled that was with class. I mean I would have been a wreck,” Whitlinger said. “The guy wins with class and loses with class.”

HALFWAY THROUGH HIS 500th win on Wednesday, Martin was frustrated with the scoreboard. Not with the results – the Bruins pummeled their way to a 7-0 win over the Dons – but with the actual scoreboard.

“He is very meticulous. He was like that as a player. He didn’t want to leave anything to chance.” Grant Chen, Associate Head Coach

Normally, the screen projects all of the singles scores at the same time, allowing Martin to track the progress on the back courts as he watches on the front courts. But on Wednesday, the names and numbers scrolled across the screen in a messy fashion, drawing Martin’s ire as he found himself unable to follow all the action.

No, he wasn’t worried about a loss, but, for Martin, it’s all in the details.

Martin is almost always armed with a legal pad or a wad of Post-its, ready to record his every thought, said associate head coach Grant Chen. Whether it is notes about a recruit or a scouting report, Martin's handwriting, often only legible to him, can be seen all around his office.

“He is very meticulous,” Chen said. “He was like that as a player. He didn’t want to leave anything to chance.”

(Daily Bruin file photo)

Seeking to control whatever aspect of a match he can, Martin has naturally developed a fair share of superstitions.

He’ll never step on a line, even as his hip problems limit him to short, shuffling paces across the court. He typically wears a blue vest at the start of matches and, if his team captures the doubles point, he’ll keep the vest on. If the Bruins lose the doubles point, off comes the vest.

"He is always working … He is not missing a beat. He is always ready." Peter Smith, USC coach

Martin's former doubles partner Trey Waltke told Travis Martin that, once, the two of them were walking through New York City late at night when Billy Martin pointed at a building in the distance. He announced that if he didn’t touch the building, he and Waltke would lose their match the next day. Waltke scoffed at the idea and headed back to their hotel, but Martin ran to the building before turning in for the night. They won their match the next day.

Whether his superstitions have played a deciding role or not, Martin’s coaching record speaks for itself.

“Every year they are first and second in the conference, and every year they’re top five in the country,” said USC coach Peter Smith. “I just think he is always working. … He is not missing a beat. He is always ready.”

(Daily Bruin file photo)

He was ready in the summer of 2015 when he found out that Martin Redlicki, previously committed to Duke, had reached a mutual agreement with the school that allowed him to enroll elsewhere.

Martin, in Las Vegas at the time, flew to Florida the next day to meet with Redlicki’s family. He showed up alone and talked to the family for six hours.

Redlicki headed to UCLA that fall and, as a freshman, earned ITA Rookie of the Year honors. Redlicki said one of his best memories as a Bruin came during the team’s trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma, last year, when Martin entertained a group of players with a string of jokes.

“It was the hardest I think I've ever laughed,” Redlicki said. “People were spitting out their drinks. We couldn't contain ourselves.”

The man who Teacher said used to be too serious to joke around is now a master of the jovial. The overwhelming intensity that Teacher remembers from a college-age Martin has morphed into an infectious presence that has made him beloved by almost everyone who knows him.

“Billy's very personable, he's very good-natured, easygoing, good to get along with,” Teacher said. “He likes to joke around, he's fun.”

But when he steps on the court, it's that same Billy from 1975, a fierce competitor in complete control.

“I don’t know what it is about Billy, but he gives off the boss vibe,” Redlicki said. “He has all his goofy mannerisms, all these goofy things that you can (tease) him for, but he gives off this aura that says he’s the boss.”