M. Tennis: Serving at home

May 14, 2010, 12:43 a.m.

After eight months of practice and 23 dual matches, the Stanford men’s tennis team (18-5) is preparing for the NCAA Tournament. The No. 7 Cardinal has been selected as one of 16 hosts for the first and second rounds.

Stanford was tabbed as the No. 8 overall seed in the tournament and will play Northeast Conference Tournament champion Quinnipiac (10-4) on Saturday at 12 p.m. in the first round.

If the Cardinal advances, it will play the winner of Friday’s other first-round match between No. 21 Pepperdine and No. 37 Hawaii.

Stanford struggled to win big matches early in the season, suffering close losses to upstart California and traditional powerhouses USC and Baylor.

But after junior Alex Clayton won a clinching match in the third set to beat UCLA in Los Angeles, the Cardinal rattled off a seven-match winning streak to finish tied with USC for the Pac-10 championship.

Sophomore Bradley Klahn, who has racked up a 14-5 record in dual matches, will lead Stanford, as he has all season. Klahn has also been selected to play in the NCAA singles championships as a 9-16 seed.

Klahn and fellow sophomore Ryan Thacher, who have held the top national ranking for parts of the year, are the No. 2 team in the NCAA doubles draw. The duo has amassed a 15-3 record in dual matches.

“We’re trying to take it one match at a time,” Klahn said. “At this point, it’s win or go home. You have to bring it every match.”

Stanford has dominated the doubles courts all year, losing the doubles point only three times. Much of this success can be attributed to the consistent play of freshmen Denis Lin and Matt Kandath.

“I feel like Denis and I have really improved as a team,” Kandath said. “We’re at a point where we are starting to anticipate the other guy’s move.”

Lin is likely to start in the singles lineup this weekend. He has gone 12-3 since being inserted into the lineup in the middle of the season.

A consistent bright spot for the Cardinal has been the play of junior Greg Hirshman, who has won all but one of his 15 matches while playing in the sixth singles spot. If Stanford hopes to make a deep run in the tournament, it will need more of the same from Hirshman.

The Quinnipiac Bobcats earned an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament after beating top seeds Fairleigh Dickinson and Sacred Heart in the Northeast Conference Tournament.

The Cardinal has been inactive since April 25, but head coach John Whitlinger isn’t worried that the layoff will affect his team.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve played a match, and we’re ready to play,” he said.

If Stanford survives Saturday, it will face a ranked team with an upset in mind.

No. 37 Hawaii (12-7) is making its third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Rainbow Warriors earned an automatic berth into this year’s tournament with a 4-3 win over Fresno State in the Western Athletic Conference title match.

No. 21 Pepperdine (16-10) would present a formidable challenge in the second round. The Waves went undefeated in their WCC regular season.

Pepperdine boasts an impressive tennis history. The Waves have won 19 consecutive WCC titles and won the NCAA title in 2006.

“It’s all about survive and advance,” Whitlinger said. “In my opinion, this is one of the best tournaments out there. These are the matches you are going to remember for all your life.”

Stanford will look to start a long postseason run on Saturday at 12 p.m. against Quinnipiac at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium.

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