After two rounds of exceptional play, No. 17 Stanford men’s tennis’ first postseason jaunt came to an end on Friday with a sweep loss to No. 5 UCLA in the Pac-12 Championships in Ojai, California.
The Cardinal (14-7, 4-3 Pac-12) breezed past Arizona (9-16, 0-7) 4-1 in the opening round and earned a bit of late-season revenge against No. 21 Oregon (18-5, 4-3) before falling to the eventual runner-up Bruins in the semifinals. No. 7 USC would take the conference title with a 4-3 victory over its cross-town rival.
Stanford was thoroughly outmatched on Friday afternoon, as the Bruins (18-4, 6-0) raced to a 1-0 lead after capturing the doubles points. Straight-set victories on Courts 3, 4 and 6 swiftly ended the match at 4-0 UCLA. It was Stanford’s third loss to UCLA this season, though the teams played closer in the two previous meetings, which both finished 4-2.
“Congratulations to UCLA on being the better team today and advancing to the finals,” head coach Paul Goldstein said after the match. “[We] performed well this weekend to advance to the semifinals despite not being at our optimum health… Our priority now is to take the next two weeks to get ourselves physically healthy and mentally fresh for NCAAs.”
The tough result came at the end of an overall positive tournament for the Cardinal. William Genesen clinched a 4-1 win against Arizona, battling to a three-set win over Andres Reyes to move Stanford into the quarterfinals. The freshman has been on a tear since being inserted into the lineup, moving to 10-3 in dual play.
In the quarters, Stanford added a signature 4-2 win over Oregon that featured tight matches across the board. After trailing in all three doubles matches, the Cardinal rallied to a pair of 7-5 wins on Courts 1 and 3 to take the early lead.
The Ducks would fight back in singles play, claiming the first two matches as sophomores Sameer Kumar and Michael Genender fell on Courts 3 and 4 respectively. However, Stanford would have the last say, as senior Brandon Sutter pulled out a 7-5 third-set win over Cormac Clissold on Court 5 to make the score 3-1.
All eyes moved to Court 1, where junior Tom Fawcett and Oregon’s Thomas Laurent, both among the top 25 players in the country, were locked in a heated battle under the Ojai sun.
Just two weeks prior, Laurent had easily bested Fawcett 6-4, 6-0 as the Ducks upset Stanford 4-3. Laurent looked poised to repeat, taking a 6-1 tiebreak lead after a tight first set. Fawcett would come roaring back though, saving five set points to take the tiebreak 9-7, and eventually closing the match with a 6-4 second-set win.
Fawcett’s win marked a career milestone, as the junior reached his 40th career dual play win. The victory moved him into elite company among Stanford greats, including Patrick McEnroe, Goldstein and the Bryan Brothers, all of whom notched 40-plus wins during their careers on the Farm.
Though the sweep loss to UCLA put a slight dampener on the tournament, Stanford will have plenty of time to rest and reload ahead of the NCAA Championships, which begin May 12.
Contact Neel Ramachandran at neelr ‘at’ stanford.edu.