No. 19 Stanford men’s tennis (13-5, 3-1 Pac-12) earned the biggest win of its season to date over the weekend, upsetting No. 5 USC (20-4, 3-1) 4-1 behind phenomenal singles play at Taube Family Tennis Stadium. The Cardinal men continued the trend of producing their best tennis in the biggest moments, notching their third top-10 win in three tries and extending their win streak to five. Those feats wouldn’t stand for long, however, as the team fell 4-2 to No. 10 UCLA (14-4, 3-0) on Sunday.
Senior Brandon Sutter clinched Stanford’s victory over the Trojans on Friday, upending Thibault Forget in straight sets to improve 12-3 in dual play this season and keep the Cardinal atop the Pac-12 standings.
“I am incredibly happy for the team with this win over a quality opponent,” said coach Paul Goldstein. “Everyone on the team has been playing great tennis and today they came out and executed our game plan.”
Stanford entered the weekend winners of six of their last seven dual matches, including monumental upsets over No. 6 Cal and No. 8 Texas and a perfect 2-0 start to conference play. The matchup against USC promised stiff competition though, as the Trojans had flummoxed the Cardinal in their last three meetings including a 4-3 loss in LA earlier this season.
Friday’s edition of the conference rivalry got off to a foreboding start for the Cardinal after USC took a 1-0 lead into singles play. Junior Tom Fawcett and senior Yale Goldberg teamed up to dispatch No. 11 Brandon Holt and Riley Smith on Court 1, but the Trojans cleaned up on Courts 2 and 3 to clinch the ever important doubles point, placing their deep singles lineup in favorable position.
Undeterred, Stanford came out blazing after the break, capturing the first set on all six singles courts. Following straight-set wins from Sameer Kumar, Fawcett and David Wilczynski at the top three spots, Sutter sealed the victory on Court 5 and was mobbed by teammates as the Cardinal recorded their first-win over USC since 2015.
“This win is wonderful for the team, our fans and the program,” Goldstein said after the match, “but we aren’t content with it. We want more and we know we can be better than we were today and will continue our progress towards that goal.”
The script was reversed for Stanford on Sunday, with the team jumping out to a 2-0 lead after taking the doubles point and a comprehensive demolition of No. 15 Gage Brymer by No. 17 Fawcett at the top singles spot. Fawcett’s 6-2, 6-1 victory over Brymer, the nation’s top recruit in 2013, capped a flawless weekend in which he defeated two top-20 players to improve to 7-3 on the season.
The momentum shifted swiftly though, as the Bruins rattled off four straight victories to take the match, 4-2. Evan Zhu snapped Wilczynski’s six-match win streak with a 6-4, 7-6 (5) victory to clinch the dual for UCLA.
“Were a young team, and that showed today,” reflected Goldstein after the loss. “[But] we’re looking to finish at least top-16 in the regular season and have the chance to refocus and elevate our game this week against some tough opponents.”
The Cardinal are in prime position to achieve that goal, as they will move up in the rankings after the weekend’s play with three matches left before the Pac-12 Championships. The team heads to the Pacific Northwest this weekend to take on Washington on Friday and No. 25 Oregon on Sunday.
Contact Neel Ramachandran at neelr ‘at’ stanford.edu.