M. Tennis: Klahn, Thacher fall short in doubles final

June 2, 2011, 1:52 a.m.

Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher had plenty to prove as the NCAA Men’s Tennis Tournament reached its last few days of individual competition. The two juniors were Stanford’s lone representatives in the singles and doubles draw after a heartbreaking loss to Virginia in the team competition and were the only Cardinal men left to defend Stanford’s home court at Taube Tennis Center. Klahn was defending his singles title from last season, and Thacher was coming off a disappointing first-round loss on Wednesday and together, the pair was looking to show they could get farther than the doubles semifinal, where they were eliminated last year.

Despite all they had to show, their season didn’t end quite the way they wanted it to. Klahn was knocked out of the singles draw in Saturday’s quarterfinals by No. 3 seed Rhyne Williams of Tennessee. In doubles, the No. 3-seeded Klahn/Thacher pair succeeded in advancing past the semis, but lost in a tough final match to No. 4-seeded Jeff Dadamo and Austin Krajicek of Texas A&M.

M. Tennis: Klahn, Thacher fall short in doubles final
Stanford juniors Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher, above, came close to making up for a disappointing team loss with a win in the doubles draw, but lost in the final. (SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily)

Coming into the round of 16 on Friday, Klahn was ranked No. 9 in the tournament field and had only dropped one match in the past two months–a tough 7-6 (5), 6-5 loss to top-ranked Steve Johnson of USC in the Pac-10 Championship final. Stanford’s top player had shown no signs of slowing, winning his first two matches of the tournament in two sets apiece.

Klahn’s Friday match came against the scrappy Jose Hernandez of North Carolina, ranked No. 22 in the country. Klahn started the match well, taking the first set 6-3, but then Hernandez turned up the heat. Hernandez dominated the second set 6-3 and had Klahn running all over the court, playing much more defensive tennis than is characteristic of the hard-hitting junior. Hernandez continued to control the match and broke early in the third set. When Hernandez was serving up 4-3 in the third set, it seemed increasingly likely that Klahn’s title defense was over. However, with his back against the wall, Klahn responded forcefully. Klahn won almost every point of the rest of the match and broke Hernandez’s serve twice en route to a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 victory.

“When he was serving at 4-3, I told myself to get strong in the legs and just make sure I get my feet under every ball,” Klahn said. “Then I started getting behind the balls and getting more pace and more depth and was able to draw some errors out of him. That was the key right there. I was working the tactics better. I came out on the offensive more and played more aggressively the last three games.”

Moving on to the quarterfinals, Klahn faced No. 4 Rhyne Williams of Tennessee. In chilly and windy conditions, Klahn never seemed to be able to get into the match. He played well, but was broken early in both sets and was always playing from behind. That turned out to be the difference, as Williams secured a 6-4, 6-4 victory.

“Obviously, it was a tough match,” Klahn said. “I thought Rhyne served well and that was probably the difference. I’m normally pretty comfortable returning, so that was tough on me. It was a little breezy out there, and the way he plays, with a real good forehand, he kind of draws you into some errors. I never really found my range and started off a little sluggish…Rhyne played well; he’s a great player, and best of luck to him.”

“I played unbelievable, and I served out of my mind,” Williams said after knocking out the defending champion. “I don’t think Bradley came out too ready or that he really liked the conditions out here today. Luckily for me, he was a little sloppy and missed some balls. He’s a great guy and we’ve always been really good friends growing up. I know his game really well and he knows my game really well, so it was a fun match.”

Williams would go on to lose in the final to Johnson who, despite losing the first set, brought home a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory for USC.

In doubles, Klahn and Thacher survived an up-and-down match against Tulsa’s No. 24 squad of Clifford Muarsland and Ashley Watling on Friday, winning 7-5, 6-1. The Stanford duo went up early 2-0, then seemed to lose energy and dropped three straight games. Down 5-4 in the set and 40-0 in the game, Thacher ripped a backhand return down the line for a winner, an incredible shot that pumped up the Stanford juniors and shifted the momentum of the match in their favor. Klahn and Thacher won nine of the last ten games of the match after that point to move on to the quarterfinals.

“It’s funny how doubles works,” Klahn said. “The momentum changes are so sudden. It can change at any moment. I thought that we picked it up in the second set and were able to hold our serves easier. We made a few too many errors in the beginning, but then we cleaned it up as the match went on.”

Although Klahn lost in singles on Saturday, he still joined Thacher later that afternoon in the doubles semifinal to take on the No. 13 team in the country–Florida State’s duo of Vahid Mirzadeh and Connor Smith. After dropping the first set, Klahn and Thacher took control of the match and proceeded to win 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-2 to advance to the semis.

“They were really scrappy, and the conditions were tough out there today,” Thacher said. “During the first set, we were taking care of our serve pretty well but couldn’t find the court on returns. We really just tried to stay focused and have confidence knowing it would come. Midway through the second set, things turned a little bit and we found our range a little more. I think we started to put together some better points, and things went our way in the end.”

After dispatching Florida State, the Cardinal doubles team had to go up another team from the Sunshine State–the No. 17 Florida Gators’ doubles squad of Sekou Bangoura Jr. and Alexandre Lacroix. In a long, back-and-forth match, Stanford defeated Florida in three grueling sets, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4). The three-setter was the second in as many days for the Klahn and Thacher duo, leaving the two juniors very happy to find themselves in the final for the first time.

“It was obviously a tough match coming down to the tiebreaker in the final set, it can’t get any closer than that,” Klahn said. “We fought back in the second set and started stepping it up. Florida made a few more errors than they did in the first–then the third set was just a dogfight.”

Sunday’s semifinal win set the Cardinal team up for a finals matchup Dadamo and Krajicek on Monday afternoon. After dropping a very tight first set to the Texas duo, Klahn and Thacher found the momentum slipping to the opposite side of the net. They vainly tried to rally back from the set deficit, only to find the match–and the title–already out of their reach. The Aggie team closed out the match in straight sets, 7-6 (4), 6-3.

Thacher was disappointed after the match, upset to squander the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of home-court advantage in the NCAA Tournament.

“We were excited to go out and play the match,” he said. “We knew we needed to execute the game plan. We got off to a good start, but, unfortunately, it went to a tiebreaker where anything can happen. We just couldn’t quite execute, but give the Texas A&M guys credit; they played a great match.”

Even with the defeat, Klahn and Thacher have made a strong statement with their doubles play this season. They went 43-8 on the year, bringing in three tournament titles along the way–from the Pacific Coast Doubles, Sherwood Cup and ITA National Indoor Championships Consolation.

With another year left at the Farm, the duo still has the chance to go one step further in the tournament and claim their first national title.


–Nate Adams contributed to this report.




Login or create an account