What You Need To Know:<BR>No. 7 Stanford, No. 9 UCLA In NCAA Round Of 16

May 18, 2010

No Problem With Quinnipiac, Pepperdine

NCAA Championships Tournament Central

No. 7 Stanford Cardinal (20-5, 5-1 Pac-10)
- vs. -
No. 9 UCLA Bruins (16-6, 4-2 Pac-10)

  • NCAA Men's Tennis Championships - Round of 16
  • Friday, May 21, 2010 - 9 a.m. PT
  • Dan Magill Tennis Complex - Athens, GA
  • Weather Forecast: 80 degrees, humid with scattered thunderstorms

    A pair of evenly-matched, tradition-rich Pac-10 clubs must travel to the East Coast and face off against each other at the NCAA Championships. Stanford (20-5, 5-1 Pac-10) is into the round of 16 for the second straight season and 26th overall. The Bruins have qualified for the NCAA round of 16 every year since the format was adopted in 1977. Ranked No. 7 in the latest edition of the national ITA rankings, the Cardinal is the No. 8 overall seed in the postseason draw. UCLA is the No. 9 seed. The action heats up in steamy Athens, Ga., on Friday, as the nation's top 16 teams chase a national championship.

    With ease, notching back-to-back 4-0 shutouts of Quinnipiac (first round) and Pepperdine (second round) last weekend at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium. The Cardinal coasted past Quinnipiac and was in control for much of the Pepperdine match, even though the Waves attempted to make a late push. Stanford earned a share of the Pac-10 regular season championship with USC, representing the first time the Cardinal claimed the league hardware since being crowned co-champions with UCLA in 2006. The Cardinal is 3-4 against the NCAA round of 16 field, with wins over Oklahoma, Kentucky and UCLA.

    UCLA snagged an at-large berth out of the Pac-10, with a surprising 4-3 loss at Arizona late in the year probably costing the Bruins a share of the league championship. The first and second rounds proved to be nothing more than tune-ups, with UCLA shutting out Sacramento State and California by identical 4-0 counts. A postseason regular as mentioned above, UCLA has been solid all season long while remaining a top-25 fixture in the national rankings. The Bruins jumped as high as No. 3 in the country back in early February.

    Alex Clayton is the lone All-American on Stanford's roster, earning the sport's highest honor in singles during each of his first two seasons. And while Clayton is now playing two spots lower in the lineup and his statistics don't resemble the 30-win variety of 2008 and 2009, his performance at the No. 3 position will be critical if Stanford hopes to advance. Clayton has won eight of his last 10 overall, and the first victory during that span was perhaps his biggest of the year: a 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 victory over UCLA's Amit Inbar at the No. 2 spot to clinch a 4-3 win for Stanford back on Apr. 3. In addition to snapping a personal four-match losing streak at the time, Clayton's victory also jump-started Stanford's current nine-match winning streak. The junior appears to have found his groove once again and if that's the case, being able to slot a two-time All-American and former NCAA Championship singles semifinalist at No. 3 becomes a luxury for the Cardinal.

    Stanford's top duo of Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher is ranked No. 4 in the country and has lost only seven matches on the year. However, two of those defeats have come against UCLA's top doubles team of Amit Inbar and Nick Meister: 8-4 on Apr. 3 in a dual match and 8-6 on Apr. 24 in the semifinals of the Pac-10 Championships. So Friday's matchup at the No. 1 spot of the lineup promises to be a hotly-contested match. Klahn and Thacher own a 21-5 record on neutral courts and have won nine of 14 matches against nationally-ranked opponents. The Cardinal's No. 1 duo provided the doubles point clincher against Pepperdine in last weekend's second round.

    Stanford's nine-match winning streak is the club's longest in seven years, as the Cardinal strung together a pair of 10-match unbeaten streaks in 2003. In fact, the last opponent to record at least two points in a match against Stanford was UCLA, which was defeated 4-3 in Los Angeles back on Apr. 3. (Yes, everything really does trace back to that match.) Stanford is playing well at the most important time of the year, and has now registered back-to-back 20-win seasons first time since 2002-03. The Cardinal was in a similar situation last season, facing a league foe (USC) in the round of 16. The Trojans prevailed 4-2 in that match, so the Cardinal will be determined to make sure this year's outcome against a conference opponent is different.

    UCLA's next loss will be its seventh, and the Bruins haven't experienced that many defeats since an eight-loss campaign back in 1998. But UCLA is still UCLA, and it would be foolish to write off Billy Martin's troops based on this year's uncharacteristic record. Battle-tested? Check- the Bruins have navigated through a difficult schedule that included Kentucky, Tennessee, Duke and Baylor. And even though the aforementioned 4-3 loss at Arizona was both puzzling and costly, Stanford would not have earned a share of the Pac-10 championship without UCLA upsetting USC 4-3 on the final day of the year. After all, the Trojans have only three losses on the year and beat Stanford twice in the regular season. Bottom line: Stanford and UCLA know each other well, so expect a grueling match that will come down to the wire.

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