Men's tennis season is over; progress just starting


For the first time in five years, Stanford's men's tennis team advanced into the Round of 16 of the NCAA championships ranked as one of the top 16 teams in the country.

Wake Forest ended Stanford's season 4-0 on Thursday in Athens, GA but it doesn't end the Cardinal's tennis restoration.

Stanford coach Paul Goldstein, in his third season, is no stranger to competing for an NCAA title. As a former Cardinal player, he knows the importance surrounding the process of competing for the championship title.

"It's an important milestone, and we've been working our tails off to try to continue in that direction," Goldstein said.

When competing to go to Athens, Stanford hosted the first two rounds for the first time since 2012. The Cardinal beat Idaho on Friday and then beat Michigan on Saturday to advance.

The program, which is looking for its first national title since 2000, has seen its share of trials and tribulations over the last 40 years.

Since its last title, the Cardinal has reached one semifinal (2003) and six Elite Eights. Bradley Klahn won the singles title in 2010. That's a record most colleges would be proud to own.

Between 1976 and 2000, Stanford failed to reach the semifinals twice.

Dick Gould, currently Stanford's director of tennis, coached the men's tennis team between 1966 and 2004, and ended his coaching career with 17 national titles. He won his first national title in his seventh year.

John Whitlinger, Gould's associate head coach, took over between 2005-13, though he was a long-time assistant and a former national singles champion (1974) under Gould.

"John and Paul are great coaches," Gould said. "(We're) right at a turning point ... with a great future."

Goldstein was admitted to Stanford in 1995 and became the first player to attend and be part of four consecutive NCAA championships.

After graduating from Stanford in 1998, Goldstein had a 10-year pro career before entering the corporate world and then returning to Stanford as coach in 2014.

"(This was) a very unique opportunity for me to be able to come back and coach and be the caretaker of a program that I feel so strongly about," Goldstein said. "When the job became available in 2014, it was an opportunity I was humbled to take."

Goldstein also mentioned that the tennis program had fallen off a bit when he had taken over. He said that admission challenges have risen and the higher percentage of international student-athletes in the landscape has made it exceedingly competitive.

"There's nothing else like the collegiate system that the U.S. has, or that exists anywhere else in the world," Goldstein said. "So if you're not ready to make it to the professional level, it's great training; it's great facilities and development, so a lot of folks choose to go the route of playing collegiate tennis."

Goldstein credits his coach, Gould, for creating the tennis culture at Stanford. Goldstein said that Gould feels a responsibility for each of his players on his team.

"College tennis is a very interesting dynamic because traditionally (it's) the most individual sport out there," Goldstein said. "When you're a junior player up until you're 18, you play strictly as an individual. And then, all of a sudden, you find yourself on a collegiate college team, and it's a really awesome experience, and some tennis players are not necessarily used to that."

Gould noted that the current team is young, and many members are playing for the first time.

"(It's) remarkable, and a real testament to the kids," Gould said.

Brandon Sutter, a senior on the team, earned a spot in the starting lineup after working through injuries for the last three years.

Goldstein echoed Gould and also talked about the difficulty of the teams they encountered this year. They both credit the young men on the team who have contributed so much to the team.

"(The) work ethic that these guys have put in and the fact that they have pushed each other to be better and to practice every day for several years now -- we're starting to see the benefits of that labor," Goldstein said.


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