The Stanford men’s tennis team finished the season in style on Saturday afternoon, defeating No. 14 Cal, 4-3, in the annual Big Slam at home. Beneath an unseasonable gray sky, Stanford’s top players performed their best to secure a remarkable 10th consecutive win on the No. 8 Cardinal’s Senior Day.
The action started quickly in the three doubles matches, pitting some unfamiliar teams with some very familiar ones. On court three, freshman Jamin Ball — who, as the season has progressed, has forced his way into the starting rotation — was paired in an unfamiliar duo with senior Alex Clayton against the freshman-sophomore team of brothers Ben and Riki McLachlan. The Cardinal (18-5, 5-1 Pac-10) came out firing and posted the first victory of the day, an 8-5 win over the brothers.
Then on court one, in a matchup of two top-25 ranked doubles teams, Stanford’s No. 3 ranked pairing of juniors Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher trounced the No. 23 team of Nick Andrews and Christoffer Konigsfeldt from Cal (12-7, 3-3). The two doubles wins gave Stanford the crucial first point in the match, which it used as momentum heading into singles play.
Immediately following the doubles play, the Cardinal and its many fans celebrated the three seniors on the Stanford team, who yesterday played their final regular season match. The seniors — Alex Clayton, Ted Kelly and Greg Hirshmann — shared a great career on the Farm, combining for numerous accolades including a 79-42 record, three NCAA tournament appearances, a share of a Pac-10 title and a return to the No. 1 national team ranking — something that had been eluding Stanford for over seven years.
Singles play got underway with all eyes following the match on court one, which pitted Klahn against one of his chief rivals, Cal senior Pedro Zerbini. Earlier this season, on Feb. 18, Zerbini defeated Klahn 7-5, 7-5 at Berkeley in their first matchup.
Saturday promised to see a different result, as Klahn came out firing. He blitzed Zerbini in the first set, running away with a 6-1 win, offering fist pumps and raucous shouts to the Stanford crowd. Klahn followed up his nearly flawless first set with an equally impressive second, winning it 6-2 and thoroughly defeating his Brazilian foe, giving Stanford a 2-0 edge in points and helping to set the tone in what would evolve into a hard-fought match.
Clayton’s resounding 6-1, 6-3 win on court three was tempered by a 6-3, 6-3 loss by his doubles partner, freshman Jamin Ball, on court six. That left the match score at 3-1 in Stanford’s favor. The decisive fourth point was now in the hands, for Stanford, of sophomores Dennis Lin and Matt Kandath and junior Ryan Thacher.
Much of the remaining drama in what was a highly competitive match was lost when Kandath defeated his opponent, the younger Mclachlan, 7-5, 6-4. With the win in that match, the Cardinal defeated the Golden Bears for the second time this season and added another impressive victory to its already solid record.
Now Stanford will bide its time, celebrate a successful regular season and prepare for Thursday’s opening round of the Pac-10 championships, held in nearby Ojai, Calif.