This weekend, several players on the Stanford men’s tennis team will head down to Ojai, Calif. to compete in the Pac-10 Championships.
The Cardinal (18-5, 5-1 Pac-10) is riding an impressive 10-match winning streak, but it will have to wait until the NCAA Championships in a few weeks to defend its streak, as the Pac-10 Championships are for individual players and doubles teams.
Most conferences around the country have an end-of-season team tournament, but the Pac-10 is different–the team champion is determined by the regular season alone. USC’s 6-0 conference record took the cake this season, and Stanford came in second place at 5-1.
The Pac-10 Championships are part of a huge tournament held annually in Ojai. In addition to the conference individual championships, the Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament has several other divisions, and is one of the nation’s most prominent tennis tournaments.
“Ojai is a very prestigious tournament,” said Stanford junior Bradley Klahn. “It’s been going on for a long time and has a lot of other divisions. It’s not just the Pac-10, but there are men’s and women’s open, youth and small college events. There’s just a lot going on. It’s a very cool setting–all of the games are played in a public park and the town gets really into the tournament.”
Stanford will be sending nine players to Ojai: Klahn, junior Ryan Thacher, senior Alex Clayton, freshmen Jamin Ball, Fawaz Hourani and Daniel Ho, and sophomores Walker Kehrer, Denis Lin and Matt Kandath.
The players will be divided into two divisions–the Pac-10 Champions draw and the Pac-10 Invitational draw–with both a singles tournament and a doubles tournament within each division.
The player everyone will be watching this weekend is Klahn, who has historically stepped up his game in the postseason.
As a freshman, Klahn won both the singles and doubles draws at the Pac-10 Championships, pairing with Thacher to win the doubles title. Last season, as a sophomore, Klahn won the NCAA singles championship and reached the semis in the NCAA doubles draw.
Klahn admits he enjoys the postseason and especially the Pac-10 Championships.
“This has been one of my favorite tournaments over the past few years,” Klahn said. “I never played it growing up, even though I had chances to play in the younger divisions. The ability to go up there and play for a Pac-10 Championship individually is big in culminating the regular season and is a great way for us to build momentum going into NCAAs as well.
“It’s been a tournament that I’ve always felt I’ve played really well at,” Klahn continued. “I feel comfortable down there and even though it can pretty hot, I enjoy it a lot and I gain a lot of confidence being able to go back there each year.”
However, even with all his individual success and the fact that this weekend’s tournament is essentially an individual event, Klahn is focused on what the tournament can provide for the team and the success his teammates can have.
“I think that as a team we’ve been having a lot of success lately, winning 10 matches in a row,” Klahn explained. “Hopefully, as a team, we can take that confidence we’ve gained throughout this run and use it in the matches this weekend. We just want to keep working on building momentum, playing different players and getting used to different conditions so that we’re best prepared for the NCAA Championships coming around in a couple weeks.”
While the team is looking forward to this weekend’s tournament, its focus clearly remains on the NCAA Championships, which begin May 13. Until then, the players have one more weekend to prepare for the season’s final test.
The Pac-10 Championships begin tomorrow and continue through Sunday afternoon.