The Stanford men’s tennis team punched its ticket to the National Team Indoor Championships with victories over UNC-Wilmington and Oklahoma this weekend, improving to 3-0 in the process.
No. 9 Stanford handled No. 57 UNC-Wilmington 6-1 on Friday afternoon and then cruised past No. 45 Oklahoma 7-0.
The Taube Family Tennis Stadium served as one of fifteen host sites around the country for the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. Four teams competed at each site for a spot in the National Team Indoor Championships from Feb. 12-15 in Charlottesville, Va.
Stanford swept the doubles matches on Friday. The nation’s No. 1 team of Stanford sophomores Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher defeated UNC-Wilmington’s top pairing 8-3.
Senior Richard Wire and junior Alex Clayton rolled with similar ease, defeating the Seahawks’ No. 57 doubles team of Max Ando Hirsh and Kinshuk Sharma 8-3.
The third doubles match was suspended because the doubles point had been clinched, but freshmen Matt Kandath and Denis Lin were leading 6-5 at the time.
Stanford cruised in five of its six singles matches on Friday. Klahn, Clayton, Thacher, Wire and Hirshman all won their matches in straight sets.
Stanford’s only loss of the day came at the hands of freshman Kosta Blank, who defeated Kandath in the No. 5 singles match in a third set tiebreaker.
“The first step in beating a top-10 team is getting a look at one,” said third-year UNCW coach Mait DuBois. “You can’t put a value on this type of experience. We’re a better team after a good, tough match like this. Give credit to Stanford – they played well today and are a talented team.”
The Oklahoma Sooners defeated the No. 44 ranked San Diego State Aztecs 6-1 on Friday morning and seemed poised to test the Cardinal on Saturday.
Oklahoma and Stanford didn’t start their match until 3:45 p.m. on Saturday afternoon because of wet courts and a consolation match between San Diego State and UNC Wilmington that stretched on for longer than expected.
As the day continued, Kandath and Lin overcame a few questionable calls to play their best doubles tennis of the year and secure an easy 8-3 victory.
“After a few slow starts in previous matches, we knew that we had to come out prepared for a good Oklahoma team,” Kandath said. “We did a good job avoiding unforced errors, which really killed us in our last few matches.”
Klahn and Thacher breezed by the Sooners’ top doubles team 8-2. Wire and Clayton’s match was suspended, but the duo was winning 7-6 at the time.
The singles matches were much closer than a 6-0 sweep would indicate. Oklahoma was close to winning multiple matches, but could not seem to catch a big point when it needed one.
No. 54 Klahn posted his most impressive victory of the young dual match season with a two-set sweep of No. 10 Andrei Daescu. The 6-foot-6 Daescu is a national champion in his native Romania. Klahn played Daescu last year in his first collegiate match and bested him in three sets.
“I try not to think about it too much,” Klahn said of Daescu’s gargantuan reach. “I just try to control what I can control. He’s going to get to some more balls, but I’m always expecting the ball to come back over the net.”
Klahn won the first set 6-2, but needed a tiebreaker to win the second set.
Clayton was losing 3-0 to No. 59 Ionut Beleleu, when he mounted a six-game winning streak to win the set. He won the match with a 7-5 victory in the second set.
Kandath and Hirshman had the most impressive matches of the day at the No. 5 and No. 6 singles slots, respectively. Kandath made quick work of Lawrence Formentera 6-3, 6-3. Hirshman frustrated George Chanturia into submission with a 6-2, 6-1 victory.
Stanford will return to action on Saturday, with a match against Hawaii at 1 p.m. at the Taube Family Tennis Center.