Men’s tennis blanks Santa Clara, No. 3 TCU up next

Feb. 3, 2016, 1:15 a.m.

No. 17 Stanford men’s tennis (5-1) defeated the Santa Clara Broncos (3-1) by a 4-0 margin at the Taube Tennis Center on Tuesday afternoon.

Despite the impressive scoreline, head coach Paul Goldstein noted that it was a slow day for his team, “Today [had] tough conditions, it [was] cold and several guys had midterms prior to the match today. It’s difficult to make the transition from that academic mode to playing a match. But I think we came out stronger in the singles, and I am pleased that we got through.”

(NEEL RAMACHANDRAN/The Stanford Daily)
Freshman Sameer Kumar (above) was a key contributor for the Cardinal against Santa Clara, playing tough in his doubles match with Tom Fawcett and blanking his singles opponent in straight sets. (NEEL RAMACHANDRAN/The Stanford Daily)

The Broncos came out with energy and passion at the beginning of the doubles play, pushing the Cardinal in all three matches. The experience and skill of the Stanford players shone through, however, as sophomore Tom Fawcett and freshman Sameer Kumar captured the first win with a 6-3 victory at the No. 2 spot.

On the next court over, junior Yale Goldberg and freshman Michael Genender captured the clinching second win, just seconds later, 6-4. Seniors Nolan Paige and captain Maciek Romanowicz, the No. 33 team in the nation, had match point on the No. 1 court, but the match was abandoned early as the Cardinal had already clinched the doubles point.

Kumar built upon his strong doubles play at the No. 4 singles position, quickly dispatching his opponent 6-0, 6-0. The Indiana native stepped up in key points in his doubles match, often keeping his pair alive with tough returns.

When asked about his transition to the college game, Kumar said, “It’s definitely tougher. Guys are stronger, taller, and [they] hit the ball harder. I’ve been putting in a lot of hard work in practice, working on being more aggressive and volleying the ball more.”

Fawcett, ranked No. 9 in the nation for singles, took the second singles match of the day 6-2, 6-3. While his opponent, senior Ashot Khacharyan, fought hard, Fawcett’s overpowering strokes and consistency put him ahead.

To clinch the fourth and final point of the match, Genender beat Kamran Khan at the No. 5 position 6-3, 6-3. While the other matches were abandoned, the Broncos challenged the Cardinal at every other position, making the match much more evenly contested than the score indicated.

Apart from its dramatic 4-3 loss to No. 16 Columbia, the team has yet to face top-level opposition and has not dropped a single match in its five victories this spring. That streak will likely change this weekend as the team hits the road to take on No. 3 TCU and Texas.

The Horned Frogs opened their season with a 4-0 sweep against San Diego State (whom the Cardinal also swept) and a narrow 4-3 victory over No. 25 Oklahoma State. TCU’s high ranking is due to the team recording one of the best seasons in program history in 2015, during which they made a run to the Final Four before losing to eventual runner-up Oklahoma.

The Frogs are led by sophomore Cameron Norrie, a New Zealand native who reached a peak of No. 10 in the junior world rankings and made it to the Elite Eight of NCAA individuals last year. Norrie, the No. 4 player in the country, will pose a stiff challenge for Stanford’s Fawcett in an intriguing matchup between top-10 players.

TCU’s lineup also features No. 24 Guillermo Nuñez and freshman Alex Rybakov, the No. 1 recruit in the nation according to Tennis Recruiting Network.

“[TCU] is a huge challenge, but also a huge opportunity for us,” said Goldstein. “They’ve got some really solid ball-strikers on their team, so from a mental standpoint, we’re going to have to be tougher than them. If we can keep the points short and play on our terms, I like our chances.”

The Cardinal go head-to-head with the Horned Frogs on Saturday before playing Texas on Sunday. The Longhorns, typically a force in the college tennis arena, have struggled to a 4-4 record this year, with three of their four losses coming from ranked teams.

Stanford will look to exploit the team’s young, inexperienced lineup, as the Longhorns returned only one starter from last year in sophomore George Goldhoff.

Stanford plays TCU on Saturday at 11 a.m. before taking on Texas on Sunday at 1 p.m. Both matches will take place in Austin, Texas.


Contact Yousef Hindy at yhindy ‘at’ and Neel Ramachandran at neelr ‘at’

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