By Evan Burke
This weekend, the Stanford men’s and women’s tennis teams get back in action at the Taube Tennis Center, as the No. 13 women (3-2) will play No. 28 Fresno State (5-3) on Friday afternoon, while the No. 22 men (5-3) will meet arch-rival No. 18 Cal (4-1) on Saturday for the Big Slam.
Since dropping under .500 for the first time in program history, the women’s team has quickly rebounded and is playing great tennis. The Cardinal’s last two matches have been dominant victories: 6-1 against St. Mary’s and a 7-0 shutout against No. 22 TCU. In this third match of a month-long homestand, the Cardinal will look to continue their high level of play as they work to reassert themselves as one of the top teams in the country.
Fresno State is currently riding a three-match win streak. The Bulldogs have shown that they can play with anyone, notching two victories against ranked opponents in their fist two matches, including an upset of then-No. 9 UCLA. Although they have since dropped their last two matches against ranked teams, Fresno State will enter the match against the Cardinal with confidence that they can score a big win on the road.
To avoid a stumble against the Bulldogs, Stanford will need to utilize its superior talent. The Cardinal have three players — juniors Taylor Davidson and Caroline Doyle, and senior Krista Hardebeck — in the ITA singles rankings to Fresno State’s one. Davidson and Doyle are also ranked as the No. 5 doubles team in the country. The Cardinal should feel confident that as long as they play up to their capability, they should be able to extend their current winning streak against the scrappy Bulldogs.
With a win against Fresno State, the Cardinal could be winners of their last three going into a tough match against Florida — one of the top teams in the country, and one of Stanford’s perennial rivals. Stanford will need to be at its best against the Gators, but a win against Fresno State would further boost the team’s confidence and ensure that it would enter the match against Florida ready to regain elite status as a tennis program.
On Saturday, the men’s team will take on California in the Big Slam, in what promises to be a well-balanced and entertaining match. The Cardinal and the Golden Bears are ranked 22nd and 18th, respectively, but have been trending in opposite directions. In the Big 12/Pac-12 challenge, the Stanford men lost matches to No. 24 Texas and No. 3 TCU to fall to 5-3 on the season. Meanwhile, Cal extended its winning streak to four matches by beating both teams. The Bears will be confident coming into Palo Alto after the TCU upset and look to be a formidable opponent for the Cardinal.
The talent of both teams will be on full display, as Stanford and Cal have always had extra motivation to be at their best against each other as arch-rivals. The two teams are relatively equal in depth, though Stanford may have a slight advantage. Stanford has six singles players and two doubles teams ranked by the ITA, while Cal has five singles players and one doubles team ranked. Additionally, Stanford doubles teams have only lost one match all year.
The match to watch will be at No. 1 singles, where Stanford sophomore Tom Fawcett and Cal junior Andre Gorranson will face off as the third- and fourth-ranked singles players in the country. The players will be facing off for the second consecutive Big Slam, with Gorranson winning handily 7-5, 6-0 last year. However, Fawcett appears to have raised his game tremendously, having played excellent tennis this year with wins in his last seven dual singles matches.
The men’s team will be looking to rebound from its showing at the Big 12/Pac-12 challenge and get its season back on track. A win against its biggest rival would do just that, and put Stanford back in the right mindset to make the best of what is still a young season.
Catch the Stanford women’s match on Friday at 1:30 p.m. and the men the following day at 1:00 p.m. Both matches will be played at Taube Stadium.
Contact Evan Burke at eburke3 ‘at’ stanford.edu.