For most avid tennis fans, the period between mid-September and January is the most dismal stretch of the year. With the U.S. Open in the rearview mirror, there are few major tournaments for the rest of the year, as professional players put the finishing touches on their seasons and spend the offseason recuperating until the Australian Open in Melbourne in January.
However, there is still plenty of tennis to be watched, as fall marks the kickoff of the college tennis season. Stanford men’s and women’s tennis will compete in individual tournaments for the next four months in preparation for team play in the spring.
The men’s team already started its season, competing in the Napa Valley Tennis Classic, an informal tournament hosted by Cal. Twenty-four players from top college programs and eight of the best American junior players in the country competed in the tournament.
The Cardinal were well-represented, with five players competing in group play. Freshman Michael Genender, sophomore David Hsu and sophomore David Wilczynski each notched two wins, while senior Nolan Paige earned both a victory at singles and one at doubles, with Wilczynzki as his partner. Junior Roy Lederman was the only one not to win a match.
While no Stanford players advanced to the quarterfinal knockout stage, several had solid results to kick off the season, highlighted by Hsu’s 6-2, 7-6 (5) victory over No. 60 Maxx Lipman (Florida).
Stanford will travel to Davis this weekend to compete in the Aggie Invitational and will continue to play individual tournaments. The fall season will conclude in New York at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships in November.
The team is coming off its best season in years, earning a share of the Pac-12 regular-season championship for the first time since 2010 while also notching upset victories over top teams such as Cal, UCLA and USC. Stanford advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012 before losing to year-end No. 10 Duke.
Stanford suffered a significant blow over the summer, as it lost seniors Robert Stineman and John Morrissey to graduation. Morrissey, an All-Pac-12 Second Team selection for the past three years while playing at the Nos. 1 and 2 spots, had an illustrious career on the Farm. Possibly his brightest moment as a member of the Cardinal came this past year, when he provided the clinching match to beat then-No.5 USC at home.
Meanwhile, Stineman was a rock for the Cardinal near the bottom of the ladder, earning a 70-48 record while competing mostly at the Nos. 4-6 spots. The pair also formed a formidable doubles partnership, competing at the No. 1 spot for Stanford and earning a year-end No. 13 national ranking.
Despite these losses, the rest of the Cardinal lineup is young, deep and poised to once again compete for a conference title. The team is headlined by sophomore Tom Fawcett, who holds the No. 20 spot in the preseason national rankings, making him the second-highest ranked Pac-12 player. Hsu also joins him in the rankings at No. 96.
The team brings in the No. 4 recruiting class in the country, according to Tennis Recruiting Network, marking the seventh time in nine years that Stanford has recruited a top-five class. Freshmen Sameer Kumar and Genender, ranked the No. 3 and 4 players in their class respectively, figure to make an immediate impact.
Things look even better for the Cardinal women’s tennis team, which opens its season this weekend at the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships and will play several tournaments until the Indoor Championships in November.
As the most historically successful women’s tennis team in the country, the Cardinal produced another hallmark season last year. The team finished the year at No. 11 in the country and fourth in an absolutely loaded conference, behind USC, UCLA and Cal, which earned the Nos. 2, 3 and 7 spots, respectively, in the year-end national rankings.
Stanford advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament for the sixth consecutive time, upsetting No. 3 Cal before being knocked out by No. 6 Georgia in the quarterfinals.
The team featured one of the deepest singles lineups in the country, with sophomores Taylor Davidson, Caroline Doyle and Carol Zhao and senior Ellen Tsay all earning All-American recognition.
During her stint on the Farm, Tsay compiled an outstanding 104-37 singles record, dominating at the Nos. 4-6 spots. While she is the only player the Cardinal lost in the offseason, she was an integral part of the team as a four-year starter and will be sorely missed.
The team is ready to reload, however. Zhao, Davidson and Doyle, the Cardinal’s outstanding trio of juniors, enter the season ranked No. 1, 15 and 17, respectively. Additionally, the Cardinal bring in the No. 1 recruiting class in the country for the third time in seven years.
The freshmen are headlined by Melissa Lord, the No. 2 player in the 2015 recruiting class. The Cardinal will also feature two other blue-chip recruits in Caroline Lampl and Kimberly Yee. While the top three spots on the ladder are likely set, the freshmen will compete for starting time on the bottom half of the ladder.
Contact Neel Ramachandran at neelr ‘at’ stanford.edu.