Cardinal tennis is back.
After a three-year rare downturn for the Stanford men’s tennis program, the Cardinal announced its return to dominance at the Sherwood Cup, as sophomore Bradley Klahn captured the singles title and Klahn and sophomore Ryan Thacher reached the semifinals in doubles.
“I think the team as a whole we had a pretty good showing,” Klahn said. “Singles, guys were plying pretty well and had some good wins. Doubles was decent; I think we got a lot of room for improvement, but we’re heading in the right direction.”
Klahn defeated Baylor’s Denes Lukacs 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday afternoon to claim his second singles title of the year. Klahn took home hardware at the ITA Northwest Regional Championships previously in the year.
“I felt pretty good the entire week,” Klahn said. “I got better with each match and was playing my best tennis by the middle of the semis and finals. I improved my serve and backhand. That was one of things I was working on the most over the summer and fall and it’s starting to show.”
The championship victory was especially gratifying for junior Alex Clayton, who lost to Lukacs 0-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the semifinals. Clayton reached the semis after the No. 1 seed in the tournament, USC’s Steve Johnson, could not play due to back spasms.
There were more Stanford ties in the tournament. Nine Cardinal players entered the singles tournament and five – Klahn, Clayton, Thacher, freshman Matt Kandath and senior Richard Wire – survived the first round. In the second round, Wire and Kandath both fell in straight sets to USC’s top two players – Johnson and Robert Farah.
“I feel in much better shape now than I did before the tournament,” Wire said. “I think everyone used it as a good warm-up.”
In the quarterfinals, Klahn and Thacher, Stanford’s No. 1 ranked doubles team, squared off against each other. Thacher kept it close in the first set, losing in a tiebreaker, but could not keep up with Klahn in the second set, losing 6-2.
On the doubles side, the Cardinal, which has been mixing up the lineup and pairings, had a solid, if unspectacular, showing. Klahn and Thacher had a bye into the quarterfinals. Clayton and Wire, Stanford’s No. 2 ranked team, advanced out of the first round, while the duos of freshman Walker Kehrer and junior Ted Kelly and Kandath and freshman Denis Lin had early exits.
In the quarterfinals, Klahn and Thacher made quick work of their UC-Irvine opponents, defeating them 8-3. Clayton and Wire lost 8-3 to a USC team featuring the same Johnson who could play Clayton a day earlier.
In the semifinals, an unranked USC squad upset Klahn and Thacher, 8-3.
In order for Stanford to win its 19th NCAA championship, the doubles must improve.
As the Sherwood Cup showed, the Cardinal’s singles lineup can play with anyone in the nation, so “the doubles point could be the difference” in advancing to the next round, according to Wire.
Stanford opens its regular season against Sacramento State this Saturday. While picked to win the Big Sky Conference, the Hornets should not pose too much of a threat to the Cardinal, if Stanford plays at the same level it did at the Sherwood Cup.
The match is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. at the Taube Tennis Center.