Tennis is all about performing when it counts. Sophomore Tom Fawcett proved that as he brought home a thrilling three-set victory against Northwestern’s Konrad Zieba, clinching the No. 29 Cardinal’s match in the second round of the NCAA tournament against the No. 14 Wildcats (26-5, 10-1 Big Ten), 4-3.
It was the fifth time the Cardinal (16-10, 4-3 Pac-12) had a match end in a 4-3 scoreline this season, with the first four all ending in losses. However, while facing elimination, they managed to win the one that mattered most.
The match did not start the way Stanford would have liked, as the Cardinal lost the doubles point after losses in the No. 1 and No. 2 team spots. But the Cardinal did not allow this to discourage them, with senior Nolan Paige and freshman Sameer Kumar scoring quick victories to put the team up 2-1. Stanford then suffered two losses in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots after Northwestern rallied to go up 3-2, leaving Stanford with two must-win singles matches at opposite ends of the lineup, in the No. 6 and No. 1 spots.
Senior Maciek Romanowicz closed out a 6-4, 6-4 victory in order to tie the match at 3-3, leaving Fawcett, the No. 15 player in the nation and Stanford’s top singles player, to try to close out the match. After losing the first set 5-7, Fawcett quickly rebounded with a dominant 6-0 second set before sealing the result 6-4 in the third that claimed the game and match for Stanford.
The NCAA tournament did not start with a similarly tight match for the Cardinal, with Stanford comfortably defeating No. 40 Notre Dame (15-14, 6-6) 4-1 in the opening round in Evanston, Illinois. To kick off the team’s 37th overall appearance in the NCAA tournament, the team started strong, winning the tightly-contested doubles point. The Cardinal and Fighting Irish split the first two doubles sets 7-5, before the No. 2 doubles team of Paige and sophomore David Wilczynski clinched the point for Stanford with a 7-5 win.
Kumar and Fawcett both made quick work of their opponents in the No. 5 and No. 1 spots, putting Stanford ahead 3-0 and in strong position to close the match. However, a Cardinal sweep was stopped when Notre Dame’s Grayson Broadus beat Romanowicz, 6-3, 6-3. This would prove to be just a minor bump for Stanford, as Paige closed out a tightly contested two-set match shortly after in the No. 4 spot, 7-6 (7-3), 7-5, the 10th time in his career that he has provided the match-clinching point.
Next up for the Cardinal is third-seeded UCLA in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the Round of 16 matchup that will challenge Stanford to come up with its best tennis. The team last played the Bruins on April 22, when it lost 4-1.
Contact Amanda McLean at ammclean ‘at’ stanford.edu.