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The Daily Wildcat

 

No. 2 seed Arizona men’s tennis set to face No. 1 seed Stanford in Pac-12 Championships

The+Arizona+mens+tennis+team+gets+ready+before+a+match+against+the+University+of+San+Diego+on+Feb.+4+at+the+Robson+Tennis+Center.+The+UA+mens+tennis+team%2C+ranked+No.+16+in+the+country%2C+went+on+to+lose+the+first+two+doubles+matches+by+close+scores.
Nathanial Stenchever

The Arizona men’s tennis team gets ready before a match against the University of San Diego on Feb. 4 at the Robson Tennis Center. The UA men’s tennis team, ranked No. 16 in the country, went on to lose the first two doubles matches by close scores.

The No. 2 seed Arizona men’s tennis team advanced to the Pac-12 Tournament Championship final for the first time in program history. The Wildcats dispatched the No. 6 seed University of Oregon, 4-1 on Friday, April 26. Now, the Wildcats are set to face top-ranked Stanford University on Saturday, April 27, at 5 p.m. for the chance to claim the final Pac-12 tourney title.

Stanford enters this match against Arizona with back-to-back dominant tournament victories. The Cardinal is currently on a four-game win streak heading into this contest, while Arizona has won six straight games leading up to this match. Both teams have been atop their conference for the majority of the regular season, so this meeting was almost fated. However, only one of these two programs can now walk away as champions.

History vs. Stanford 

Arizona and Stanford are set to meet for the 27th time in the pending matchup. Historically and recently, the Cardinal have dominated the Wildcats in head-to-head matchups. The all-time record between the schools is heavily one-sided, with Stanford leading with an overwhelming 24-2 record against Arizona. The Wildcats are currently on a two-game losing streak to the Cardinal, with their last encounter occurring on March 30. The match was closely contested between both teams; however, Stanford managed to outlast the Wildcats, winning 4-3 in Tucson. Regardless of the location, Stanford has consistently had the upper hand against Arizona, and this season is no exception. Stanford is also 3-0 in neutral venues this season, which is the case for the upcoming match.

Stanford’s season

Stanford’s head coach, Paul Goldstein, has firmly established himself among Stanford’s elite men’s tennis coaches in the program’s rich history. Over nine seasons at the helm, Goldstein’s teams have amassed a 147-66 record, securing a national ranking and a berth in the NCAA Championships each year. Under Goldstein’s guidance, Stanford has averaged nearly 19 victories per season, earning consistent national recognition.

Stanford commenced its spring season with consecutive victories against St. Mary’s University and No. 22 University of Memphis, maintaining a flawless record in the process. However, the Cardinal then endured a cold streak, dropping their next three matches against top-15 ranked teams: No. 14 University of Michigan, No. 5 Texas Christian University and No. 4 University of Texas at Austin. Despite this setback, Stanford rebounded, stringing together four consecutive victories before encountering another top-15 opponent, No. 13 San Diego State University and suffering a lopsided defeat. Fortunately, Stanford swiftly recovered, concluding non-conference play and went on a seven-game winning streak as it entered conference play. Within this streak, the Cardinal secured their first victory over a top-15 ranked team, in former ranked No. 7 Arizona. Although their run was halted by No. 28 UCLA, Stanford rebounded and won its final two regular-season matches. Once the Pac-12 Tournament began, Stanford ended up as the top seed, and defeated No. 8 seed University of Washington 4-0 in the quarterfinals and then triumphed over No. 4 seed ASU 5-1 in the semifinals. Now, the Cardinal focus lies squarely on the Pac-12 title, with a familiar foe standing in their path.

Similar to the Wildcats, Stanford has considerable depth and talent across both singles and doubles play. Beginning with single play, Neel Rajesh has a season record of 14-3 in singles, sharing the team’s highest number of victories and has consistently performed well throughout the year. However, the burden of singles play does not rest solely on his shoulders. Stanford’s Nishesh Basavareddy (12-1), Kyle Kang (12-4) and Nico Godsick (6-1) have also contributed significantly to the Cardinal’s success this season. As for doubles play, the duo of Max Basing and Nico Godsick, with an 8-2 record, have been particularly impressive. They are closely followed by Samir Banerjee and Nishesh Basavareddy, who boast a 7-4 record this season. While other pairs could also come into play, these two combinations have been the most notable throughout the season and are likely to lead Stanford’s efforts to outmaneuver the Wildcats in doubles play.

Wildcats to watch 

Despite Arizona surrendering the doubles point to Oregon in the semifinal match, the team did not panic because when it came to singles, it believed it had the best players against any opponent to come out on top, and once again, they proved it true. As Wildcat fans prepare to watch the men’s tennis team compete in its first championship game, make sure to look out for Casper Christensen and Herman Hoeyeraal. Christensen sealed Arizona’s victory against Oregon, while Hoeyeraal secured the Wildcats’ first singles victory after falling in doubles. These two players this season have been excellent performers for Arizona, with Christensen undoubtedly Arizona’s best singles player as he currently rides a 13-game win streak and has a 28-6 record on the season in singles, which is the second most wins on the team. He also is tied for the least amount of losses with someone who’s played at least 20 matches on the year. Hoeyeraal isn’t far behind with his 26-9 record on the season and has been just as clutch for the Wildcats in his time on the court.

Moving into doubles, although Arizona did not secure the point against the Ducks, it found some success. Throughout the season, the pair that has consistently found success together, regardless of how other double pairs perform, has been Sasha Rozin and Gustaf Strom. This duo is 12-6 together and has won its last seven out of 10 matches together. Expect their reliable contribution not to falter even with the Wildcats preparing to face their biggest challenge yet. Securing the doubles point is crucial for Arizona’s chances at the title, and Rozin and Strom can certainly be the pair that gives the Wildcats the edge over the Cardinal.


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