Men’s tennis finishes season with 2-4 loss
The Stanford men’s tennis team’s season is over after falling to UCLA 4-2 on Friday evening in the round of 16 at the NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga.
“This was just another great Stanford-UCLA match,” Stanford head coach John Whitlinger told GoStanford.com. “We’ve beaten them and had some luck at times, and they’ve been in the same situation.
“I’m extremely proud of our guys, but UCLA is a great team, and they are healthy at the right time,” he added.
UCLA (17-6, 4-2 Pac-10) secured a spot in the quarterfinals for the 22nd consecutive year, but then fell to top-seeded Virginia 4-2 on Sunday.
In Friday’s match, UCLA clinched the doubles point to take a 1-0 lead, and then followed up with three singles-match victories to earn the victory.
Stanford’s doubles teams had been virtually unbeatable all year, winning 23 of 26 doubles points before heading to Georgia.
Stanford’s top team of sophomores Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher cruised to an 8-3 victory over UCLA’s Amit Inbar and Nick Meister. Klahn and Thacher defeated UCLA’s best doubles team for the first time in three tries this season.
But the Cardinal failed to capitalize on the quick victory and squandered away the doubles point.
Senior Richard Wire and junior Alex Clayton fell to UCLA’s second team of Haythem Abid and Matt Brooklyn, 8-6.
All heads turned to the third court, where Stanford’s freshman duo of Matt Kandath and Denis Lin allowed Alex Brigham and Holden Seguso to fight back from a 3-0 deficit and force a tiebreaker.
The Bruins’ Brigham and Seguso eventually pulled out a 7-5 victory in the tiebreaker to clinch the doubles point and give UCLA a 1-0 lead.
From there, the Bruins controlled the early singles play with first-set victories on three of the six courts.
However, a rainstorm forced a brief delay and a move to the inside courts. The break seemed to halt UCLA’s momentum and give the Cardinal a chance to catch its collective breath.
“It gave us sort of a timeout, which I thought helped a little,” Whitlinger said of the rain delay. “We just got down early in those matches.”
UCLA’s No. 117 Inbar took down Lin in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2, shortly after the move inside to give UCLA a 2-0 lead.
Stanford’s top player No. 13 Klahn countered with his own two-set victory over UCLA’s Meister, 6-4, 6-2.
In addition to playing in the doubles tournament with Thacher, Klahn will be playing in the NCAA singles draw as a No. 9-16 seed.
Seguso gave the Bruins a commanding 3-1 lead with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Wire in what proved to be Wire’s final collegiate match.
It seemed like UCLA might cruise to an easy victory, but the fourth and final point proved to be elusive for the Bruins, keeping Stanford in the match.
No. 84 Thacher gave Stanford another point with a hard-fought three-set victory over No. 51 Abid on the second court, 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-3.
With junior Greg Hirshman leading Maxime Tabatroung on the sixth court in the third set, the team match and a spot in the quarterfinals came down to the third set between Stanford’s Clayton and UCLA’s No. 58 Matt Brooklyn.
The scenario was reminiscent of Stanford’s regular season match at UCLA on April 3, when the Card’s Clayton fought off multiple match points to pull out a third-set victory over Inbar to clinch the match and catapult Stanford on a seven-match winning streak.
In that match, UCLA was missing starters Abid and Seguso. Their presence in the lineup this time around proved to be the difference.
Clayton forced a third set with a victory in a second-set tiebreaker.
The junior had multiple break point opportunities in the third set, but failed to capitalize. Clayton eventually fell 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3.
It is hard to classify Stanford’s season as a disappointment. The team shared the Pac-10 title with USC and made it to the round of 16 in the NCAA Championships.
Sophomores Klahn and Thacher established themselves as one of the top doubles teams in the country, and freshmen Kandath and Lin gave Stanford fans a reason to believe that the future will be very bright.
However, for a program that has won 17 national titles, anything less than a championship is somewhat of a disappointment.
The Cardinal will return all but one starter for next year and should once again be a contender for a national title.