The Stanford men’s tennis team started the NCAA Tournament in style this past weekend, dispatching of Army and Washington to clinch its spot amongst the final 16 teams. The match against Army was a blowout from the very start — with the Cardinal easily winning 4-0 — and the match against Washington was deceptively close, with the Cardinal still managing a resounding 4-1 victory. With the two wins, Stanford has now won 12 straight matches and is on its longest winning streak since taking 18 matches in a row back in 2001.
Army, making its fifth appearance in the NCAA Tournament, was blitzed early and often on Friday afternoon by the No. 7 Cardinal. Experience and depth clearly showed, as Stanford dominated every match of the day. The tone was set with the doubles point, when the teams of Bradley Klahn/Ryan Thacher and Alex Clayton/Jamin Ball both quickly disposed their opponents by scores of 8-3. Those victories left the Cardinal needing only three points to clinch the match. Juniors Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher and sophomore Dennis Lin were more than ready for the task, as they were the quickest of the six Stanford singles players to win.
Klahn, out of the No. 1 spot, defeated Asika Isoh, 6-1, 6-2. Thacher, out of the No. 2 spot, took out Gary Kushnirovic, 6-0, 6-1, and Lin, out of the No. 4 spot, beat Tripp Johnson, 6-0, 6-1. If either of those three had faltered, seniors Alex Clayton and Ted Hirshmann and sophomore Matt Kandath would have been more than capable of providing Stanford with one of the requisite four points, as each was solidly ahead when the Cardinal clinched the match with its fourth team point.
On Saturday afternoon, the Cardinal had the task of facing a familiar and pesky opponent, the No. 25 Washington Huskies. The last time these two teams had faced off — on April 8 in Seattle — the match had been a close one, which Stanford had managed to win 4-3. The stage was set for Saturday’s playoff match to be just as exciting, with a berth in the sweet sixteen on the line.
After locking up the doubles point, the Cardinal quickly found itself locked in several closely contested singles matches, with the exception coming from an unlikely source.
Freshman Daniel Ho had been fairly quiet all season, competing in just three matches, but on Saturday he burst onto the scene in spectacular fashion, rewarding his entry into the lineup with a tidy 6-2, 6-1 win over his opponent, Max Manthou, out of the No. 6 position. Ho’s victory was followed up by No. 1 player Bradley Klahn’s 6-4, 6-4 triumph over his familiar Husky foe, Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, putting Stanford on the brink of victory. After a defeat out of the No. 2 position for Ryan Thacher, senior Alex Clayton clinched the victory for Stanford when he lost after a sloppy first set, taking the match 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.
The atmosphere those two days at the Taube Family Tennis Center was lively, with fans coming to support both teams.
“Taube Family Tennis Stadium is definitely one of the best venues to play at when there is a good crowd,” said senior Ted Kelly. “College tennis is all about playing in front of your best friends.”
The Cardinal now will rest and prepare for Thursday, May 19, when the NCAA Tournament heads into the round of 16. Stanford, seeded eighth, will be taking on ninth-seeded Texas A&M at 6 p.m.