A weekend of packed action came to a fruitful close for Stanford men’s tennis, as the 16th-ranked Cardinal won hard-fought matches over Idaho and No. 17 Michigan in the NCAA Championships to reach the Sweet 16.
Taube Stadium was teeming with fans Friday through Sunday with the men’s and women’s teams opening tournament play on their home courts. The Cardinal men (18-8, 4-3 Pac-12) opened play on Friday against Big Sky conference champion Idaho (16-8, 9-2 Big Sky).
Stanford’s depth throughout the lineup shined through against the Vandals, who were swept 4-0 despite playing the Cardinal close in both doubles play.
“I enjoyed today’s competition,” said Stanford head coach Paul Goldstein. “Idaho was a competitive and classy team that we have a lot of respect for.”
Stanford earned a tightly contested doubles point behind victories on Courts 3 and 2, before racing to a 3-0 victory with wins from No. 11 junior Tom Fawcett and sophomore Sameer Kumar. Fawcett rode a big serving day to an easy victory on Court 1, while Kumar was pushed slightly further at the second spot, taking the match in a second-set tiebreaker over Felipe Fonseca.
Brandon Sutter wrapped things up for the Cardinal on Court 5, also prevailing in a second-set tiebreak to clinch the sweep. It was the senior’s fifth clinching point of the season. The match played closer than the score indicated though, as Courts 3 and 6 were locked in third-set battles when play was suspended.
Stanford returned to play on Saturday against Michigan (23-7, 10-2 Big 10), which had defeated Valparaiso in the first round the previous day. The teams split sets at the No. 2 and 3 spots in doubles play, leaving the point to be decided by Stanford’s No. 54 Fawcett and senior Yale Goldberg against No. 29 Connor Johnston and Jathan Malik. Down two match points in the set tiebreaker, Fawcett and Goldberg found another gear to pull the upset 7-6 (5) and put the Cardinal up 1-0.
Fawcett and Sutter were as reliable as ever in singles play, both winning in straight sets to make the score 3-0 and put Stanford on the brink. The Wolverines made things interesting from there though, winning on Court 6 and taking the first sets on Courts 3 and 4 in tiebreakers.
Locked in a battle on Court 2, Kumar stamped out any potential drama with a 6-0, 3-6, 7-6 (6) victory over Michigan’s No. 86 Alex Knight in a tight third-set tiebreak, the fourth of the day. It was a momentous occasion for Kumar’s, as his first clinching point in two years of collegiate tennis sent Stanford through to the Round of 16.
“Today was exciting collegiate tennis,” said Goldstein after the match. “TNT might think they know drama, but collegiate tennis where the real drama is, which today’s match showed… Credit to Michigan, they brought excitement throughout the match, but [we] showed poise.”
The match was Stanford’s last at home this season, as the team will travel to Athens, Georgia, where the remainder of the tournament will be played. The Cardinal face a stiff challenge in the next round, where top-seeded Wake Forest awaits. First serve will be at 4 p.m. on Thursday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
Contact Neel Ramachandran at neelr ‘at’ stanford.edu