The Stanford men’s tennis team switches its focus this weekend to tournament play at the annual National Team Indoor Championships in Charlottesville, Va. Stanford is coming off a hard loss against Fresno State, in which the Cardinal could not close out the win at home at the Taube Family Tennis Center.
It has been a challenging month in general for Stanford (6-3), which suffered its worst loss in recent years by getting blown out 7-0 against USC two weeks ago. The squad then followed that performance up with a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of UCLA. And with the most recent loss against Fresno State, the Cardinal dropped to an uncharacteristic 2-3 so far in the month.
The stakes change this weekend at the National Team Indoor Championships. Stanford qualified for the prestigious event by defeating Saint Mary’s and Santa Clara at the end of January to advance to the third round of the championship and secure its trip to Charlottesville.
Sixteen of the top teams in the country will be in Charlottesville this weekend to participate in one of the most important tournaments before May’s NCAA Championships. The entire top five teams of the current college tennis rankings will be in Virginia: No. 1 USC, No. 2 Virginia, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 4 Georgia and No. 5 Florida.
Stanford is the ninth seed in the 16-team tournament and will start off by facing a tough opponent in No. 7 Baylor. If Stanford wins its first match it will face No. 2 Virginia, a rematch of Stanford’s final match last season—where the Cardinal suffered a heartbreaking Sweet Sixteen loss in the NCAA tournament. If the rematch is to happen, it will surely be an emotional one for the Cardinal players, who were so close to upsetting the nation’s No. 1 team last year.
All eyes this week will be on Stanford’s senior captain Bradley Klahn, who may or may not be returning from injury. Klahn made his season debut on Tuesday against Fresno State, playing in the doubles matches with his traditional partner Ryan Thacher. Klahn and Thacher won their doubles match handily, but Klahn sat out the singles matches and was a spectator for his team’s tough loss. Perhaps this weekend head coach John Whitlinger will elect to reunite his team and let Klahn reclaim his old spot at the top of the Cardinal rotation.
After Stanford pulled out a tough win against BYU last week and prepared to face Fresno State on Tuesday, senior Walker Kehrer said, “Winning matches when you are not at your best is always key and I think we did that Friday. What I also think was important about this win is that our best tennis is definitely yet to come. What is important is that we keep working towards our best tennis, and hopefully that will come in May.”
Kehrer has the right attitude if the Cardinal is going to overcome these early season struggles and have a shot at accomplishing their perennial preseason goal of winning the Pac-12 and NCAA Championships.
A major litmus test will occur this weekend against the best teams in the country. Stanford will hit the courts at 3:30 p.m. PST against Baylor on Friday in Charlottesville, Va.