No. 15 Stanford men’s tennis’ road trip to the Pacific Northwest came to a disappointing end this weekend, falling to Oregon after easily handling Washington on Friday. The Cardinal entered Sunday’s match against the No. 23 Ducks riding six wins in their last seven matches — including a massive victory over No. 5 USC last week — but that momentum sputtered to a halt in a 4-3 upset loss.
Despite cold, windy weather conditions, Stanford (14-6, 4-2 Pac-12) cruised to a 4-0 win in Friday’s matchup against Washington (12-9, 1-5). The only drama of the dual came on Court 3 in doubles play, when the Stanford team of Brandon Sutter and David Wilczynski found themselves down 5-1 in the tiebreaker with the doubles point on the line. The duo came storming back, saving a match point to clinch the breaker 12-10 and take a 1-0 lead.
Straight-set victories from Wilczynski, Tom Fawcett and Brandon Sutter and Tom Fawcett at the No. 3, 1 and 5 spots respectively secured the win for Stanford, as Sutter clinched for the third time this season.
Despite its losing conference record, Oregon (17-5, 3-3) promised a much trickier matchup for the Cardinal on Sunday. Led by Frenchman Thomas Laurent, the No. 26 player in the country and owner of a 17-2 dual play record, the Ducks were fresh off 4-3 losses to No. 10 UCLA and No. 12 Cal that could have easily fallen their way.
Things finally did tip in Oregon’s favor against the Cardinal, as sophomore Ethan Young-Smith pulled out a three-set victory over Stanford’s Jack Barber on Court 6 with the score tied 3-3 to score the upset. The victory tied a mark for the highest-ranked win in school history for the Ducks.
“Today was a disappointing result against Oregon,” said Stanford head coach Paul Goldstein after the match. “We had a lot of guys in difficult spots …We had our opportunities, but we were unable to finish.”
The Cardinal got off to a characteristically strong start, earning the doubles point with another win from Sutter and Wilczynski at No. 3 and taking a 2-1 lead behind another comprehensive straight-set victory from Wilczynski over Oregon’s Jayson Amos in singles.
The tides shifted in the Ducks favor from there though, as Laurent dominated tenth-ranked Fawcett at the top spot, 6-4, 6-0. It was Laurent’s second win against a top-15 opponent this year and his 28th victory this season overall, setting an Oregon program record.
At No. 2, Oregon transfer Akihiro Tanaka upset a slightly banged up Sameer Kumar in three sets while Stanford’s William Genesen pulled out a tightly contested victory on Court 5, evening the score at 3-3 with Young-Smith and Barber battling it out at No. 6.
With both players returning to their teams’ starting lineups for the first time in weeks, Barber took the first set 6-2. Young-Smith responded emphatically with a 7-5 win in Set 2 before racing out to a 3-0 lead in the decider. The Stanford sophomore was unable to work his way back into the match as Young-Smith took the third set 6-2 to clinch the match.
It was a pivotal loss for Stanford in the conference play picture, as the team had been in control of its own destiny to finish the season second behind UCLA. Instead, the Cardinal will need a win over No. 12 Cal in its final regular season match plus some help to earn a top-two seed in the year-end Pac-12 Championships.
Stanford goes head-to-head with the Golden Bears this Saturday at 3:30 pm in Berkeley, with the match broadcast live on Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Neel Ramachandran at neelr ‘at’ stanford.edu.