Sports

Hardebeck records upset on first day of NCAA singles tourney

 

The nation's only program to have its entire singles lineup represented in the NCAA Singles Championship draw, Stanford saw five of its six players into the round of 32 on Wednesday in Georgia.

Kristie Ahn, Taylor Davidson, Caroline Doyle, Krista Hardebeck and Carol Zhao all won their opening-round matches.

Hardebeck, who entered the individual tournament having lost five of her last seven with two victories since April, pulled a 6-2, 6-2 upset over Virginia's Julia Elbaba, the nation's No. 4-ranked player.

"Taking out a seed in the first round is always a great thing. Everybody here is tough though, so it doesn't really matter," Hardebeck said. "This is a big confidence builder so that will really help me. I just need to keep swinging loose and have a good time out there."

It was the first win in over a month for Hardebeck, who competed at the No. 2 spot in singles for the Cardinal. She won 36 times as a freshman and remains a dangerous opponent.

"I haven't really had the best season and my team, unfortunately, lost in the semis so I just came out here and tried to give it all and just swing away," Hardebeck said. "At this point I don't really have anything to lose. I was really happy that everything was going well and that it worked out in my favor."

Stanford has produced 16 all-time collegiate singles champions (14 NCAA, 2 AIAW), with Nicole Gibbs repeating last year as the NCAA champion.

Ellen Tsay was the lone Cardinal player eliminated on Wednesday, falling 6-3, 7-6 (5) to Notre Dame's Quinn Gleason.

Tsay, who finished 24-10 overall and 14-5 in duals, was a near-lock for the Cardinal during the year at the No. 5 spot, helping anchor the team's back-court depth.

The tournament's No. 3 overall seed, Ahn cruised past Virginia's Stephanie Nauta 6-3, 6-0.

"It's really tough going from fighting for your teammates and your school to going to play for yourself," Ahn said. "Both of us played each other - Stanford vs. Virginia - and you can tell that there was a different feeling out there. The first day is always the toughest, so I'm just glad to get through it."

Improving to 28-4 overall and 19-3 against nationally-ranked opponents, Ahn guaranteed that she will close out her career on The Farm having never lost back-to-back matches over a four-year span covering 112 contests.

"You just have to keep yourself motivated somehow, someway," Ahn said. "For me, it's my last year, and I'm just telling myself that it could be my last match so I just have to go for it every time out there."

Stanford's heralded rookie trio of Davidson, Doyle and Zhao also advanced, with Davidson and Zhao prevailing in straight-sets.

Perhaps Stanford's hottest player, Davidson routed Auburn's Pleun Burgmans 6-2, 6-0 and has not allowed more than four games to an opponent over her last six sets combined.

Zhao breezed past Mississippi State's Georgiana Patrasc 6-1, 6-1, defeating her ninth nationally-ranked foe while collecting her 26th straight-set victory of the year.

Doyle required three sets to advance in her match, outlasting TCU's Stefanie Tan 6-1, 6-7 (6), 6-1.

Stanford's team leader with 34 wins, Doyle improved to 4-1 in three-set matches this season, with three of those triumphs coming over the last six days.

The round of 32 continues Thursday, along with the start of the NCAA Doubles Championship. Stanford is represented with its top duo of Ahn and Zhao as an at-large selection.

— Palo Alto Online Sports/Stanford Athletics

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