Having seen their dual-match season come to an end on Sunday afternoon in a heartbreaker against Virginia, members of the Stanford men’s tennis team will look to bounce back and conclude the season on a high note as they enter the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships today in Athens, Ga.
Stanford will once again be represented by seniors Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher in both events. The pairing will be the No. 4 seed in the 32-team doubles draw, and both seniors received at-large bids in the 64-man singles draw.
The singles tournament will open on Wednesday, with the doubles event beginning a day later. Both competitions will see an entire round completed each day, culminating in two finals scheduled for Monday, May 28.
The event, which will take place at the University of Georgia, will see Klahn hoping to replicate his performance on the same courts in 2010, when he stormed to the NCAA singles title as a No. 13 seed.
“I have very fond memories of this place, winning it two years ago here, and I had goose bumps as we drove into town last week for the team event, seeing all the familiar spots that bring back great memories,” Klahn said.
While Klahn missed the beginning of the season with an unpredictable back ailment, he has a record of rising to the occasion in the postseason and appears to be peaking at just the right time. Klahn has lost just twice in his past 13 singles matches, with both defeats coming against top-seeded two-time national champion Steve Johnson of USC.
“I feel prepared and excited to start the individual portion of my final NCAAs,” Klahn said. “I had two matches against top-five guys in the team portion of the event…and those two matches helped sharpen my game for the individual tournament.”
Klahn will in fact repeat the singles component of the Virginia matchup in the first round, facing the Cavaliers’ No. 4 seed, Jarmere Jenkins, on Wednesday for the second time in four days. Their match on Sunday was abandoned with Jenkins a set ahead.
“It is obviously a very deep field this year, and I can’t look further than my first match against [Jenkins],” Klahn said. “I’ve always taken a step-by-step approach to tournaments like the NCAAs, and this week is no different. I feel confident in my health and in my game, and that’s the most important thing for me right now.”
Meanwhile, Thacher will look to replicate the form that saw him lead the Cardinal lineup for the first part of the season in Klahn’s absence and attain a 22-13 overall record. Thacher will face Texas Tech’s Gonzalo Escobar in the first round.
As a doubles pairing, Klahn and Thacher have been a remarkably successful team, collecting eight doubles titles together throughout their careers. The NCAA doubles title has thus far proved elusive, however, with the pair falling to Texas A&M in a tightly contested final last year.
Klahn downplayed the suggestion that the lack of playing time the two have recorded together during the season might hurt their chances as they prepare to take on Niall Fitzgerald and Casey Watt of Notre Dame in the first round.
“Ryan and I have been playing doubles together for over three years now, so I am not worried about any rust in our partnership,” Klahn said. “We haven’t lost any recognition of each other’s tendencies and have been able to get some practice in as a doubles team the last few days.”
For both Klahn and Thacher, the upcoming week offers the chance to finish their already-sterling Stanford careers on a high note, after acquiring numerous individual honors and leading the Cardinal to two straight NCAA quarterfinals.
“It’s a difficult feeling to know that this is my last college tournament ever,” Klahn said. “I have been lucky to play at such an incredible university, and college tennis has provided me with memories that will stick with me forever.
“I won’t approach this tournament any differently because it is my last one,” Klahn added. “I will still go out and enjoy the moment and compete like I always do, and be determined to leave college tennis on a high note.”
Klahn downplayed the psychological impact of the Cardinal’s exit from the team tournament against the Cavaliers, claiming that the match experience had instead helped him and Thacher prepare for the individual competitions.
“What has happened in the team event is in the past,” Klahn said. “Yes, it is difficult for me to look back and know that I will never play a dual match again, but at the same time I am lucky to have an opportunity waiting right around the corner to try and win another national championship.”
Both Klahn and Thacher will play their first-round singles action today, before starting doubles play tomorrow.