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W. Tennis: Cardinal players move on to next round of Pac-12 Championship

Six players from the Stanford women’s tennis team were in action yesterday for the first day of the Pac-12 Championships in Ojai, Calif. Each of the six was competing individually, as the women’s conference tournament does not have a team component, unlike the Pac-12’s men’s tournament.

Sophomore Kristie Ahn (above) won the Pac-10 Singles Championship last year, but will be unable to play in this year’s inaugural Pac-12 Championship due to an injury. However, she will be cheering on four of her teammates, who won their opening-round matches of the Pac-12 Championship and will be playing in the next round starting today. (MADELINE SIDES/The Stanford Daily)

Stanford’s players, just one day after their 7-0 Pac-12 title clinching victory over Washington State, are looking to build on last year’s success in this tournament. Three out of the four 2011 semifinalists came from Stanford, although sophomore Kristie Ahn, last year’s eventual winner, is injured and will not have a chance to defend her crown. Junior Mallory Burdette, the No. 5 ranked player in the country, won her opening match 6-3, 6-1 over Washington’s Andjela Nemcevic in one of the day’s earlier matchups. No. 57 Stacey Tan also won Thursday morning, defeating Arizona’s Kim Stubbe 7-6 (1), 6-4. Tan was one of the Stanford players to lose in last year’s semifinals, along with sophomore Nicole Gibbs.

Gibbs, who is the No. 1 seed of the tournament and the No. 3 player in the country, lost the first set to UCLA senior McCall Jones, but came back on the last two sets with winning scores of 6-3 and 6-2.

In the Invitational section of the tournament, which is a different bracket from the Championships, junior Natalie Dillon and sophomore Amelia Herring both lost.

The big challenge still lies ahead for the Cardinal players as this year’s tournament field is especially talented.

“It will be good experience because a lot of the top ranked players are in the Pac-12,” said Burdette, who is the No. 3 seed in the tournament. In fact, four of the top 10 players in the nation are from the Pac-12, as well as nine of the top 25.

The four Stanford players are split up in the draw so that none of them can meet until the semifinals. The draw is also set up so that a finals rematch between Gibbs and Burdette is possible. The two met at the USTA ITA Northwest Regional Championships final earlier this year, where Gibbs narrowly won 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(3).

The two of them will be sharing the court with certainty as the top seed in the doubles draw, which starts Friday. Last year, Burdette won the NCAA doubles championship alongside now-graduated Hilary Barte, which means she and Gibbs have been playing doubles together for less than a full season.

“In the past, the Pac-12 tournament has been really big for me in doubles, and this year I can get prepared with [Gibbs] against great competition,” Burdette said.

Play will continue all weekend, barring interference from rain. The final for the 32-team singles draw is scheduled for Sunday morning. The championship of the 16-team doubles draw is set for later the same day.