No. 4 USC Men Hold Court At Home vs. Stanford and Cal

March 30, 2010

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The No. 4 USC men return home after a four-match road run, holding court at Marks Stadium to take on No. 7 Stanford and No. 17 California this week. The Trojans (16-2, 2-0 Pac-10) start out by hosting the Cardinal (11-4, 1-0) at 1:30 p.m. on Friday (April 2) in another edition of a heated USC-Stanford rivalry. The next day, USC faces the Bears (10-4, 1-0) at 1 p.m. on Saturday (April 3) for the continuation on conference play.

The latest Campbell/ITA national team rankings (released March 30) have defending NCAA champ USC ranked No. 4 in the nation after the Trojans' first loss slipped them out of the No. 1 spot at which they opened the year. The latest individual rankings also were released March 30. There, Steve Johnson remains on top as the nation's leader, ranked #1 again in singles. Senior Robert Farah is next in line at #15, with four other Trojans settled in the rankings: #73 Jaak Poldma, #83 Daniel Nguyen, #104 Peter Lucassen and #123 JT Sundling. In doubles, three Trojan teams are in the rankings: #8 Farah/Johnson, #48 Johnson/Nguyen and #52 McNaughton/Nguyen.

USC pinned up two decisive wins last week to open Pac-10 play, with the Trojans slipping in just one doubles match and one singles match shortened to a 10-point tiebreak while otherwise rolling past No. 67 Oregon and #21 Washington. Playing on the road, USC swept the Ducks 7-0 and beat the Huskies 6-1 to take a 2-0 start in conference play.

Stanford is ranked No. 7 in the nation and is 11-4 overall and 1-0 in Pac-10 play after beating Arizona 6-1 last week and losing to Baylor 4-3 on Tuesday. Stanford has three players ranked in singles: #5 Bradley Klahn, #45 Alex Clayton and #93 Ryan Thacher. In doubles, Stanford has #1 Klahn/Thacher and #31 Clayton/Wire. USC is 100-75 all-time against Stanford after pulling out a tight 4-3 win over the Cardinal in February in Palo Alto. Due to weather, the teams played singles first, leaving doubles as the deciding point in the match. The Trojans pulled off the win with at 9-8 (3) tiebreak decision by Johnson/Nguyen over then-#26 Clayton/Wire. It's been a heated rivalry between the Trojans and the Cardinal. Last season, USC and Stanford faced off three times. Stanford won the first meeting 4-3 with USC winning the Pac-10 clash 4-3 and also topping the Cardinal 4-2 in the 2009 NCAA Round of 16.

Cal is ranked No. 17 in the nation and enters the week 10-4 overall and 1-0 in Pac-10 play after beating Arizona 6-1 last week. Cal has three players ranked in singles: #16 Pedro Zerbini, #71 Christoffer Konigsfeldt and #116 Jonathan Dahan. In doubles, Cal has #23 Andrews/Konigsfeldt and #26 Dahan/Zerbini. USC is 128-33 all-time against Cal after beating the Bears 7-0 and 6-1 last season. This year's nonconference match at Cal was canceled due to rain.

USC recorded its first back-to-back wins against crosstown rival UCLA since 1991 with the Trojans' 6-1 win over the Bruins on March 3 at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. USC had claimed a 4-0 win over UCLA earlier this year at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, and this second look at UCLA was a similarly decisive victory for the Trojans. USC captured the doubles point and then worked ahead with the clincher coming from Matt Kecki to make it a 4-1 USC lead from his No. 6 singles slot.

En route to reclaiming his hold as the No. 1 singles player in the nation, Steve Johnson first picked up his first career honor as the Pac-10 Player of the Week. Johnson was ranked #1 from January until March 2 when he moved to #3 for one rankings cycle. During that stretch, the sophomore got the ball rolling on USC's doubles point and winning run through singles in the #5 Trojans' rivalry match at #6 UCLA last week. Playing with Robert Farah at No. 1 doubles, Johnson put up a solid 8-5 doubles win for a USC advantage in the doubles race. Then, Johnson pinned up a straight-set victory in singles over Holden Seguso to lift the Trojans ahead 2-0 in the match. In doing so, Johnson helped secure USC's first back-to-back wins against crosstown rival UCLA since 1991. As of March 16, Johnson moved back to #1. He now holds a 22-4 overall singles record and 11-3 mark in dual-match play.

After winning out in doubles and singles during USC's 7-0 sweep of San Diego State, Daniel Nguyen came up huge for the Trojans in an incredibly tight match at No. 14 Stanford in a rematch of last year's NCAA Round of 16 clash. His clutch play for the Trojans earned the sophomore his first career selection as Pac-10 Player of the Week on March 2. Due to the threat of rain, USC and Stanford opted to play out singles first, with doubles only played in the event of a singles tie and clear skies later in the day. Nguyen had the most decisive singles win of the day as he opened the day with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Matt Kandath to help USC to an early lead. Singles play would end up even 3-3, bringing up the deciding doubles matches. The winning point came down to Nguyen and partner Steve Johnson at the No. 2 position, as the then-unranked Trojan pair faced Stanford's #26 Clayton/Wire. Nguyen and Johnson pushed the match to a tiebreaker and pulled ahead, claiming the tiebreak 7-3 to win the match for USC. Weeks later, more dominant play from Nguyen netted him another Pac-10 Player of the Week honor (March 23) for his efforts in matches at Duke and Georgia. Currently ranked #83, Nguyen has won eight straight matches and is now 26-5 overall in singles with a 12-1 mark in dual-match play. He leads the team in singles wins, just ahead of Steve Johnson's 22 wins and Robert Farah's 21 to date.

Jaak Poldma earned his first career honors as Pac-10 Player of the Week on Feb. 16 after a dominant all-around performance at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, staking a claim as the first Trojan to win the weekly honor from the conference this season. Poldma tallied wins across the board, getting two singles and doubles wins and leading in both his suspended matches. #116 Poldma stayed flawless in dual-match singles play from the No. 3 position, beating Kellen Damico of Texas and #118 Nick Meister of UCLA both in straight sets. His singles wins put him on a six-match overall win streak. Poldma also stretched to a six-match win streak in doubles with Peter Lucassen after that weekend's success, including an 8-6 upset of UCLA's #36 Brooklyn/Stewart. Poldma now ranks #73 in singles with a 20-4 overall record in singles with a 13-1 mark in dual-match play. Poldma and Lucassen are 12-2 together in doubles -- all in dual-match action.

USC's doubles strength has been key this season. Although pairings have been shuffling during dual-match play, the Trojans have won the doubles point in all but two matches this year. Those two lost doubles points both wound up as USC's only two losses to date -- vs. Texas and at Duke. With the majority of time at the top slot, the #8-ranked duo of Robert Farah and Steve Johnson hold a 9-1 record at No. 1, where USC is 12-5 overall. The large part of the No. 2 position has seen Johnson paired with Daniel Nguyen for a 4-0 record and Nguyen and Jason McNaughton going 3-2 together in that slot. The No. 3 spot has been largely comprised of Peter Lucassen and Jaak Poldma, who opened the year with a 10-0 record in that position and are now 12-2 together in dual-match doubles.

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