Love all: Women’s tennis commemorates Taube Tennis Stadium

Amid the tension of Taube Tennis Center, graduate student Angelica Blake found herself locked into a prolonged rally. Blake had N.C. State’s No. 2 ranked Ameila Rajecki on the ropes and needed just one more point to secure an NCAA tournament victory for Stanford.

But Rajecki wouldn’t go out easily — she unleashed a mixture of impressive forehand and backhand shots, compelling Blake to hit her own aggressive shots in response. The 15 stroke rally reached its conclusion when Rajecki’s shot went beyond the baseline, giving Blake a win and propelling Stanford to the NCAA tournament quarterfinals.  

When the match finished, Blake threw her racket into the air, emotion evident across her face. But Cardinal fans witnessed something more momentous than just an NCAA tournament victory: The team played its final match at Taube Family Tennis Stadium, closing the curtain on the venerable facility with a rousing 4-0 victory over No. 14 North Carolina State. 

Taube Stadium, which was dedicated in 1997 to Stanford alumn and entrepreneur Tad Taube ‘54 M.A. ‘57, sits on a site that has been the venue for Stanford varsity tennis since 1926. The stadium, which has hosted Stanford women tennis’s 113 wins in the last 120 matches, will cease to exist in its current form after it undergoes substantial reconstruction and reconfiguration to become part of the newly named Arrillaga Tennis Center.

“It’s nice to go out on a win,” said Stanford women’s tennis head coach Lele Forood. “I wish we weren’t leaving [Taube] but we are.” Forood, who played tennis at Stanford in the 1970s, has coached here since the 1980s.

“I have very fond memories and I will miss this structure because there are very few stadiums left for tennis in the United States,” said Forood. “I will miss the grandeur of this place and all that went on here, not just college matches, but pro tournaments and even Fed Cup and Davis Cup.” 

During Forood’s head-coaching tenure, her teams have won 10 NCAA titles and compiled a 560-62 overall record. She has also coached 69 all Americans, including junior Connie Ma, Blake and junior Alexandra Yepifanova — all while playing their home matches at Taube.

Friday’s contest was a rematch of last year’s semifinal, won by N.C. State. This year, motivated by both the significance of the match and the chance to get a final win at Taube, the team achieved a different result. 

The Cardinal won the closely contested doubles point behind wins on the No. 2 and 3 courts. Blake and sophomore Alexis Blokhina triumphed over No. 29 senior Sophie Abrams and sophomore Anna Zyryanova 6-3. In the deciding match, freshman Katherine Hui and junior Valencia Xu broke serve at 3-3 and held on to win 6-4, clinching the doubles point.

In the singles, No. 29 Yepifanova won in straight sets, 6-1, 7-5 over No. 62 Zyryanova. Next, No. 7 Ma used her shot variety and superb tactical skills to beat No. 71 Abigail Rencheli 6-1, 6-4. In the deciding match, No. 25 Blake employed her aggressiveness and consistency to triumph over big-hitting No. 2 Amelia Rajecki, 6-3, 6-3.

“It’s a special moment, winning with the team and it being the last match at Taube,” Blake said after winning the final point. “I tend to be pretty level headed after matches, but this one, I felt the emotions after match point.” 

Taube has hosted four NCAA women’s tennis championships and the first combined men’s and women’s NCAA championships in 2006 and again in 2011. Many of the all-time great players have graced Taube’s courts, including John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Venus and Serena Williams, Jimmy Connors, Mats Wilander, Lindsay Davenport, Martina Hingis and Kim Clijsters. 

“We’re definitely sad to see it go,” Ma said. “Tennis has been here for almost 100 years and we’re glad we were able to do it justice, to honor the people who came before us. We’ve had a great home record, so to send it out on a win is what we wanted and everyone is just ecstatic about it.”

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