Stanford delights home crowd with win over Texas A&M in NCAA Men’s Division I Sweet 16

May 20, 2011 07:49 AM
By Colette Lewis, special to
-- There was plenty of drama on the opening day of the NCAA Division I Team Championships at the Taube Family Tennis Center at Stanford University, where the 16 remaining men’s teams fought for a place in the quarterfinals. Sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 60s made for ideal playing conditions, with most of the top seeds taking advantage of the perfect weather.
The host Stanford Cardinal sent their fans home happy, beating Texas A&M, 4-2, in one of the evening matches. With his costumed fraternity brothers cheering him on, 2010 NCAA singles champion Bradley Klahn clinched the match for the eighth-seeded Cardinal, with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Aggie Austin Krajicek.
"The crowd was unbelievable today," said Klahn, a junior from Poway, Calif. "It brought us a lot of energy and really got us motivated, amped up and energized. I thought we were able to ride that, even though we lost the doubles point. We took four first sets in singles, and I was really pleased with the way the team came through."
Klahn and doubles partner Ryan Thacher had a match point in the tiebreaker that would decide the doubles point against Krajicek and Jeff Dadamo at the No. 1 court. But Dadamo saved it with a stunning second-serve ace, and the Aggie team went on to claim the tiebreaker, 10-8.
"The guys were pretty confident when we went in the room after losing the doubles point," said Stanford Head Coach John Whitlinger. "They didn’t have their heads down."
Stanford got singles wins from Thacher, Alex Clayton and Matt Kandath, allowing Klahn to finish off the No. 9 Aggies, putting the Cardinal in the quarterfinals against top-seed Virginia, a 4-0 winner over Illinois.
Although the Cavaliers were over three hours late getting on the courts due to the nearly five-hour match between Baylor and UCLA, Head Coach Brian Boland didn’t see any negative impact on his undefeated team.
"Not a bit," said Boland, whose team has been the top seed in the past four NCAA tournaments but has yet to make a final. "I think the guys were really ready to play, and we’ve had plenty of preparation…I think it showed."
The Cavaliers took the doubles point and got wins from Alex Domijan, Sanam Singh and Jarmere Jenkins to post their third victory of the year over the Fighting Illini.
The long wait for Virginia and Illinois came after the day’s most exciting match, a heart-stopping rollercoaster ride that saw No. 5 Baylor defeat No. 12 UCLA, 4-3.
The last time UCLA and Baylor met, it came down to a third-set tiebreaker in the final match. In a match that started in the late afternoon and ended under the lights of the Taube Tennis Center South courts, their NCAA round-of-16 match ended precisely the same way. But this time, Baylor was the team with the razor-thin victory margin.
"We had the exact same match with them in Waco in February," said Baylor Head Coach Matt Knoll. "And they won, I think 11-9 in the third-set breaker. This time it just went our way. The teams couldn't be closer. I thought they fought incredibly hard. I was really proud of both teams."
In the February match, UCLA's freshman Clay Thompson was the hero. At Stanford Thursday night, Baylor's Kike Grangeiro fought through the nerves and the pressure to claim the four-hour, 45-minute marathon for the Bears, with a 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (8) victory.
Trailing 6-4 in the tiebreaker in the final set of his match against Holden Seguso on Court 5, Grangeiro, a junior from Brazil, fought off those two match points and two more at 6-7 and 7-8.
But after several shaky serves by both players late in the tiebreaker, Grangeiro located his first serve, earning a match point of his own at 9-8 in the tiebreaker. Seguso, who had won a third-set tiebreaker in the NCAA regional to put the Bruins in the Sweet 16, missed his first serve. The senior from Bradenton, Fla., got his second serve in but without much on it. Grangeiro took advantage, hitting deep, and when Seguso's forehand went long, Grangeiro dropped his racquet and turned to face his onrushing teammates. After a few seconds of bouncing, hugging and screaming, the Bears began to seek out their opponents for handshakes.
"Every time we play against them, it's really tough, and the guys are really ready," Grangeiro said. "Last time it was 7-6 in the third. This time it was 7-6 in the third for us. When it came down to me, I think I have to give it everything I have. I wasn't feeling my best at the end of the match, but it just feels great. I'm really proud of all the guys."
For No. 12 seed UCLA, it was the first loss before the NCAA quarterfinals since 1988. But Head Coach Billy Martin showed no sign of disappointment.
"I'm still proud of my guys," Martin said. "We fought to the bitter end."
Baylor’s quarterfinal opponent is No. 4 Ohio State, which beat Tulsa 4-0, ending the unseeded Golden Hurricanes’ surprising run to the round of 16.
Earlier in the day, No. 6 Georgia beat No. 11 Duke, 4-1, to set up a third meeting with No. 3 Tennessee, which beat No. 14 California-Berkeley, 4-2.
Tennessee, the 2010 NCAA finalists, had beaten Georgia, 4-3, in Athens to claim a share of the SEC regular season title.
"We've played them twice this year, and we've managed to win both times," said Tennessee Head Coach Sam Winterbotham. "It's been a really competitive match every time, so we don't expect anything less."
Two-time defending champion University of Southern California looked in top form with its 4-0 win over No. 15 Georgia Tech. Next in the Trojans’ path is No. 10 Kentucky, which turned the tables on seventh-seed Florida with a 4-2 win.
Kentucky had lost two close matches to Florida this year, the most recent in the SEC tournament final, but the Wildcats won the doubles point this time, propelling them to victory.
"We felt like if we won the doubles point, it would be like 80/20 that we would win the match, and if we lost the doubles point, it would be like 60/40 them," said Kentucky Head Coach Dennis Emery. "So the doubles point was huge; we played some of best doubles of the year."
The men’s quarterfinals will be on Saturday. On Friday, the women take center stage, with top seed and defending champion Stanford certain to draw another enthusiastic crowd for its evening match against No. 16 seed Northwestern.