The Stanford men’s tennis team had an up-and-down weekend at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Seattle, going 1-2 against quality opponents. The No. 7 Cardinal fell on Friday to No. 11 Florida, defeated No. 2 USC on Saturday and lost to No. 16 Georgia on Sunday.
Such erratic play is uncharacteristic of the Stanford team thus far this year—the squad was off to a perfect 7-0 start before this weekend, its best opening since 2002. Consistency has been an impressive aspect of the team so far this year, but was disrupted during the weekend tournament.
Friday’s match versus Florida was a tight one from the very beginning. The Gators claimed the early doubles point when courts two and three went the way of the Gators, and from there, Florida was able to build a substantial 3-1 lead by winning two of the first three singles matches. Stanford refused to go away, though, and fought back as seniors Greg Hirshman and Alex Clayton posted clutch wins for the Cardinal. Tied up at 3-3, the outcome of the contest came down to the third set of the No. 1 singles match.
Stanford junior and reigning NCAA singles champion Bradley Klahn, ranked No. 7 nationally in singles, had battled back against Florida’s ninth-ranked Alexandre Lacroix to hold a 2-1 lead in the pivotal third set. Lacroix stormed back, winning five of the final six games to clinch the set, the match and the victory for the Gators.
The Cardinal showed great resolve on Saturday, bouncing back from its tough loss to Florida by posting its most impressive victory of the year, a 4-3 nail-biter over USC. This contest also came down to a final, three-set match, this one occurring at court four, where sophomore Denis Lin was pitted against the Trojans’ Emilio Gomez.
Gomez fought to force the third set by winning the second, and, like Klahn did the day before him, managed to carry that momentum into the close final set. But Lin remained strong, holding off a final charge and securing the victory for Stanford with a 6-3 third set win. Lin had a great day against USC, winning the point-clinching matches in both singles and doubles.
On Sunday, Georgia was the team pulling off the upset, defeating the Cardinal by a score of 4-2. Stanford was down early on, as the Bulldogs jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead with wins on courts one and three during doubles play.
Stanford momentarily had the score tied after Hirshman disposed of his opponent on court five, but it was fleeting, as the Bulldogs posted victories on courts two and four, over senior Ryan Thacher and Lin, respectively. Klahn kept the Cardinal in the match with a straight-set win on court one over No. 24 Javier Garrapiz, before sophomore Matt Kandath fell to Bulldog freshman Hernus Pieters on court six, thereby clinching the victory for Georgia.
The stiff competition in Seattle gave the Cardinal a gauge of its current place in the collegiate tennis landscape.
“We had a good win against USC but also lost some close ones,” said freshman Jamin Ball. “We’re right there with the best teams, we just need to get a little better. The sky really is the limit. Our next five matches are all against top-15 schools which will be a good, tough test for us.”
That stretch will start this weekend as the squad heads down to Los Angeles for two difficult road matches: at No. 6 UCLA on Friday and then against USC on Saturday.