Tom Fawcett recovered from a shocking first-set loss in a big way. The sophomore, who plays No. 1 singles for Stanford, roared out of the depths of disappointment to record his biggest victory yet, a 5-7, 6-0, 6-4 victory over Konrad Zieba in a battle of top 20 players.
Fawcett helped the unseeded Cardinal reach the NCAA Round of 16 for the first time in four years as Stanford stunned host 14th-seeded Northwestern, 4-3, on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA men's tennis tournament, earning a trip to Tulsa for the final rounds.
The Cardinal (16-10) plays Pac-12 rival UCLA on Friday. Stanford meets the Bruins for the fourth time this season, with UCLA winning all three previous meetings. A different venue, though, could mean a different result.
Four times this season, Stanford played matches ending in 4-3 outcomes, all resulting in disappointing losses.
In a hostile environment and facing elimination, the Cardinal got the one that mattered most. Stanford helped Pac-12 teams go 4-1 during the second round and a combined 9-1 through the first two rounds.
Fawcett, one of four underclassmen in Stanford's ever-improving singles lineup, survived a back-and-forth match in which he left a 5-1 first-set advantage disappear as Zieba rallied to the victory.
Rather than a deterrent, Fawcett used it as fuel to win eight of the next nine games en route to clinching his fifth match of the season and improving his career record in three-setters to 8-2.
Stanford trailed at the outset, losing the doubles point. That spoiled nothing as the Cardinal won a match despite losing the doubles point for the first time in over two months.
After suffering 4-3 setbacks to No. 16 Columbia, No. 26 Texas, No. 18 California and No. 4 UCLA over the course of a 34-day span, Stanford made sure this match would be different.
Senior Nolan Paige, who had entered NCAA competition having lost six of his last seven matches, won for the second straight day, contributing a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Fedor Baev at the No. 4 spot.
Freshman Sameer Kumar followed with a 6-1, 7-5 victory on court five, giving Stanford its first lead of the afternoon at 2-1.
Northwestern evened the match when Strong Kirchheimer defeated sophomore David Wilczynski, 6-0, 6-4, and then edged ahead when Sam Shropshire took down freshman Michael Genender, 6-3, 6-4, at the No. 2 spot.
Kirchheimer won his 14th straight match and improved to 30-3 on the year.
"We had a great year," Wildcats coach Arvid Swan said. "We will let this one sting a little, but we are going to be back next year ready to go."
Senior Maciek Romanowicz made it 3-3 after notching a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Alp Horoz on court six, putting the focus squarely on Fawcett.
The postseason win is another positive step in the process for second-year head coach Paul Goldstein, who also guided Stanford into the NCAA second round last season.