The Stanford men’s tennis team will play its home opener on Saturday against Sacramento State. The No. 9 Cardinal is brimming with confidence after a promising fall season and a successful Sherwood Cup last weekend.
“We got some competition in against some good players, shook the cobwebs off and stayed healthy,” said head coach John Whitlinger, “so I’m pretty happy.”
The Cardinal is poised to make it past the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006.
“We’re going to keep working and keep our sights on the NCAAs in May,” said sophomore Bradley Klahn. “There’s a lot of good teams out there, but we feel pretty good about our team.”
NCAA tennis matches consist of six singles matches and three doubles matches. Each singles match counts for one point and the best two-out-of-three winner of doubles gets a point. The first to four points wins.
Whitlinger hasn’t announced the lineup for Saturday’s match yet, but it is likely that the singles players will be junior Alex Clayton, Klahn, sophomore Ryan Thacher, senior Richard Wire, freshman Matt Kandath and freshman Denis Lin.
Clayton has been awarded the No. 37 national singles ranking and Klahn has been slotted at No. 54.
Klahn is coming off a singles tournament victory at the Sherwood Cup last weekend.
“It’s a huge confidence booster to start the season with a win,” Klahn said. “And I kept improving with each match. But, I’m still working on my fitness and trying to shore up a few holes in my game.”
While the singles lineup is relatively set, the doubles pairings are a work in progress. Stanford’s ability to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament could depend on its doubles teams.
“It’s very important to get that doubles point,” Whitlinger explained, “so we’ll keep tinkering with the pairing over the course of the year to try and find out which teams work best.”
One sure thing is that sophomores Klahn and Thacher will be playing doubles together in the top slot. The duo compiled a 12-1 record during the fall season and enters the spring as the No. 1 team in the nation.
Saturday will be fans’ first opportunity to see the members of the freshman class in action. Kandath, Lin, Sam Ecker and Walker Kehrer make up a group that has been ranked the top recruiting class in the nation by tennisrecruiting.net.
“It’s exciting to finally get to play at Taube [Family Tennis Center],” Kandath said. “Hopefully we can go out there and get a win against Sacramento State.”
The Sacramento State Hornets have been picked to repeat as Big Sky Conference champions. They return league MVP Kiryl Harbatsiuk and senior Anton Stryhas. As doubles partners, they posted a 15-7 record last spring.
Stanford looks to start its dual match schedule with a win on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Taube Family Tennis Stadium.
Saturday’s forecast calls for a chance of rain in the afternoon, but there are no plans to postpone the match at this point.