Stanford women’s tennis beats rival Cal

April 24, 2023, 6:04 p.m.

A week after clinching the Pac-12 regular season title, No. 7 Stanford women’s tennis (18-2, 10-0 Pac-12) took on No. 27 Cal (11-8, 7-3 Pac-12) on a sun-drenched Friday at Taube Family Tennis Center. A season ago, the Cardinal fell to the rival Golden Bears in Berkeley. This year told a different story as Stanford, supported by its largest crowd of the season, triumphed 6-1 in a closely contested encounter, featuring see-saw battles in both the doubles and singles matches. The win was the Cardinal’s 15th in a row and cemented their first perfect conference record since 2019.

The doubles set the tone for the day. On court two, graduate student Sara Choy and sophomore Alexandra Yepifanova broke serve to go ahead 4-3, ultimately winning 6-4 with Yepifanova holding serve and Choy angling a net winner. Thereafter, things tightened up. On court three, the sophomore tandem of Connie Ma and Valencia Xu fell behind early at 3-4 but forged ahead at 6-5 after some shaky Cal serving. In the end, the pair prevailed in a tiebreaker which they led throughout. With Xu serving at match point, Ma hit a sterling up-the-alley passing shot punctuating the 7-6 victory, improving the duo’s record this season to 11-2. The contest on court one was similarly close, as senior Angelica Blake and freshman Alexis Blokhina fell behind early but fought back to even the set at 5-5. They moved ahead to 6-5 with some strong service returns as the court three match ended, clinching the doubles point for the Cardinal and giving the team momentum going into the singles.

The Golden Bears struck first in singles, evening the match at 1 point each when No. 16 ranked Ma, on court two, succumbed in straight sets to a hard-hitting Cal opponent. But soon thereafter, Choy fought back from 0-30 at 5-5 in the first set to win 7-5. Then her precise ground strokes took over as she won the second set 6-1. Over on court one, No. 24 Yepifanova saved 3 set points before forcing a tiebreaker, which she won handily. Yepifanova took that momentum into the second set, winning the final four games to triumph 7-6, 6-2 — drawing the team to within 1 point of a win.

Blake appeared to be on an easy path to victory on court three after winning her first set 6-1. However, she soon found herself at a 3-5 deficit in set two before raising her game to win that set 7-5, clinching the fourth point and a Cardinal victory.

Two matches remained to be decided and both saw Cardinal comebacks. On court four, Blokhina lost the first set before steadying herself and then overpowering her opponent 3-6, 6-4, 6-0. Xu was down 1-5 in the first set before reeling off the next six games to win 7-5. In set two, her consistency and tenacity prevailed as she won 7-2 in a tiebreaker for a 7-5, 7-6 triumph.

Afterwards, Peter and Helen Bing Director of Women’s Tennis Lele Forood said both the doubles and singles matches were “really competitive” and noted the importance of playing on one’s home court, where the Cardinal women have now won 100 of the last 106 matches. She praised her team’s resilience, remarking that “everyone is going to have adversity and they are going to have to push through it.”

Coach Forood said that she very much liked the team’s form going into the Pac-12 tournament, remarking that the team’s “play over the last three to four matches has been spectacular” and “we are really good about where we’re at.”

The Cardinal will travel to Ojai, Calif. for the Pac-12 Tournament, where their first match will be held on Thursday at 12 p.m. PT.

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