The Stanford men’s tennis team heads to Seattle this weekend for its biggest test of the young season, the ITA National Indoor Championships. At 7-0 (1-0 Pac-10), the team is off to its best start since 2002.
The Cardinal is seeded seventh in the 16-team tournament, which will stretch from today through Monday. The tournament is single-elimination but features a consolation bracket, guaranteeing teams the opportunity to play at least three matches.
Stanford is looking to avenge what was a poor showing in the same tournament last year, when it was trounced by Texas in the opening round. The Cardinal has been on a roll through the early part of its schedule this year, though, and looks primed to present a tough challenge to the 10th-seeded Florida Gators, Stanford’s first-round opponent.
The Cardinal is on the same side of the draw as No. 2 seed USC, and if both Pac-10 rivals win their first matches, they will be pitted up against each other in the quarterfinals on Saturday in what would inevitably be a hard-fought match. However first, Stanford has to take care of a Florida team that is full of talent, but perhaps somewhat unaccustomed to playing indoors due to the prime tennis conditions that the state of Florida provides. The Cardinal will be looking to take advantage of this discrepancy in indoor-playing experience.
Leading the Stanford team as it tries to make a statement against the best teams in the country this weekend will be junior Bradley Klahn, the team’s No. 1 player and the reigning NCAA singles champion.
Klahn spoke about the upcoming tournament and what it means to the team.
“The National Team Indoor Championships is a great tournament to really see where we stand versus the top teams in the nation,” he said. “The top teams are all in it, and these are the teams that we’re going to be seeing throughout the rest of the year and finally in the NCAAs.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to go up against these teams and see if we can come out with some wins,” he continued. “We’re just trying to go out there, play our best tennis and have a successful tournament. I think this weekend can do a lot for our confidence level as a team.”
With the squad entering the most pivotal and difficult portion of its regular season schedule, a boost in confidence would surely be a welcome addition.
Stanford is off to its best start in nine years, has a secure spot in the national top 10 and is led by a core of experienced upperclassmen. That group includes Klahn, the Cardinal’s s top player and the reigning NCAA singles champion. With this group of players, perhaps this will be the year that the Cardinal breaks through and ends a 10-year NCAA title drought.
This weekend could prove to be one of the season’s most telling tests for the Cardinal. The first match, against Florida, is at noon today.