The Stanford men’s tennis team, in the midst of a slide, is set to embark on a three-week hiatus from dual-match team play, ending when it returns to the court against Baylor on March 22.
In the meantime, though, a number of Stanford players will participate in the Pacific Coast Doubles Tournament.
The Cardinal (8-3) has slipped a bit in the national rankings lately, dropping out of the No. 8 spot it had held for the last month to No. 10. The minor dip comes on the heels of consecutive losses–to Georgia at the ITA National Indoor Championships over Presidents Day weekend and to USC down in Los Angeles last weekend.
The upcoming break is due to Dead Week and finals, and it may have come at exactly the right time. In addition to practicing and training essentially every day, the Cardinal has played 11 competitive matches in the span of a month, a grueling and exhausting stretch for both the team and coaching staff. Stanford has won eight of those 11 matches and is continuing to improve as the season progresses–continuing to, in the words of head coach John Whitlinger, “build towards May,” when the NCAA Championships begin.
The time off from dual-match play will not be entirely idle, however, as this weekend brings with it the 122nd Pacific Coast Doubles tournament, down in La Jolla, Calif. Five Stanford doubles teams–10 players in total–will be making the trip to San Diego to compete in the season’s biggest doubles tournament before the NCAAs.
The Pacific Coast Tournament has always had a reputation as a somewhat quirky, fun event. It is the world’s second-oldest continuous doubles tournament, trailing only Wimbledon (which began in 1884, seven years before the PCT was inaugurated.) In the event’s rich history are winners such as Bobby Riggs (1936), Arthur Ashe (1965-66) and Stanford’s own John McEnroe (1978).
The tournament is unique in that the 98-team field is comprised of players from several different age groups and experience levels. Along with the collegiate players that comprise most of the field, there are high school players, retired professionals and even some near-senior citizens. Tournament Director William J. Kellogg, at 59, is the oldest player in the draw and will be competing with his trusty partner, head tennis pro at the host facility La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, Manolo Ortiz, 46 years old.
In last year’s event, Stanford’s No. 1 doubles team of junior Bradley Klahn and senior Ryan Thacher nearly joined the likes of McEnroe, Ashe and Briggs, but fell in the finals. This year they will try to top that result and will be joined in the draw by four other Cardinal teams: seniors Alex Clayton and Ted Kelly, sophomores Dennis Lin and Matt Kandath, senior Greg Hirshmann and sophomore Walker Kehrer, and freshman Jamin Ball and sophomore Dennis Lin.
This weekend’s event represents the last competitive action for the Stanford players before they hit the books for two weeks of serious studying. The season will kick itself into an even higher gear as March rolls around to April.