The current 36th ranked Stanford men’s tennis team returns to Taube Family Tennis Stadium this Saturday off the heels of a trip to Gainesville, Florida for the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. The Cardinal are 1-2, with both losses coming in Gainesville to No. 29 South Carolina and No. 13 Florida. In the next two weeks, Stanford looks to gain momentum with home matches against UNLV and BYU. Following an up-and-down season last year that culminated in a first-round exit to Tulsa in the NCAA tournament, the team looks to capitalize on a roster full of both experience and youth. Here’s a look ahead at the season:
A New Coach
This season will mark the first time in ten years that John Whitlinger will not head the program. Whitlinger, who announced his retirement at the end of last season, is succeeded by another former Stanford tennis legend in Paul Goldstein. Remarkably, Goldstein is only the third coach that the program has had since 1967, in large part due to the thirty-nine year tenure of Dick Gould as head coach — a tenure during which the team won seventeen national championships. As a player at Stanford under Gould, Goldstein was part of four consecutive team national championships, which made him the first player in NCAA history to achieve this honor (USC’s Steve Johnson and Daniel Nguyen recently reached this landmark as well in 2012). In addition, Goldstein was a member of the historic 1998 team alongside the current world #1 doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan. The entire season saw the team lose only three points en route to a 28-0 season and national championship. As a professional tennis player following his career at Stanford, Goldstein reached a career high ranking of No. 58 in the world and tallied wins over top players such as Alex Corretja, Pat Rafter, Lleyton Hewitt, and Novak Djokovic.
This year, the roster features a plethora of returning players, many of whom have had experience playing some of the top spots in the singles and doubles lineup. Seniors John Morrissey and Robert Stineman have been fixtures in both singles and doubles since their freshman years at Stanford, and this year, they are teaming up at the No. 1 doubles spot for the Cardinal where they have yet to lose a match this season. Morrissey has played at the top spot in the singles lineup for the past two seasons, compiling a 22-14 record. Stineman has amassed 55 career singles victories for the Cardinal and won his singles match in last year’s NCAA tournament team loss to Tulsa. In addition, juniors Maciek Romanowicz and Nolan Paige have both played in the top three of the singles lineups in their careers thus far at Stanford and figure to play significant roles in this year’s singles lineup as well. Finally, junior Trey Strobel, who tied for the team lead in victories his freshman year, should help the Cardinal in the doubles lineup this season as he teams with Paige at the No. 3 spot.
A Stellar Freshman Class
In his final season as coach before announcing his retirement last May, Whitlinger recruited the nation’s top recruiting class, and the freshmen are off to a great start this season. Headlining the class were three blue-chip recruits (according to tennisrecruiting.net) in Tom Fawcett, David Hsu, and David Wilczynski. While just freshman, all three have already played in live matches for the Cardinal, with Fawcett opening as the number one singles player in the Cardinal’s opening three matches. Moreover, Fawcett kicked off his fall campaign on the Farm by winning the ITA Northwest Regional Championship in singles, which made him the first Cardinal to win the tournament since Ryan Thacher. Fawcett has yet to lose a singles match this year in dual play, and his early wins include a victory over No. 71 Thiago Pinheiro of South Carolina — Stanford’s only win of the match. On top of this, Fawcett and Hsu are Stanford’s only national ranked singles players (No. 25 and No. 75, respectively) to open 2015.
A Difficult Schedule Ahead
Having already played two top 30 teams in their first three matches, the Cardinal face a tough road ahead. When searching for difficult matches on the schedule, the Cardinal will need to look no further than their own Pac 12 conference, which currently boasts three top 12 teams in USC, UCLA and Cal (Nos. 1, 4, and 12, respectively). Stanford has yet to advance out of the first round of the NCAA tournament since a quarterfinals appearance in 2012 in the days of Klahn and Thacher. For the most decorated program in collegiate men’s tennis history, fans are certainly hoping that this season the team can return to its former glory.
Contact Shawn Tuteja at sstuteja ‘at’ stanford.edu.