Jana Juricova’s record stands at 11-2. She has advanced far in all three tournaments she has played in, winning one. Yet, for Juricova, the country’s top collegiate tennis player, it has been an underwhelming campaign.
This weekend, Juricova will travel to New York for the largest tournament of the fall season, the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championship. The senior will be the top seed, and the rest of the field will be aiming for her.
The fact that this year can be considered anything but astounding is a testament to the staying power of Juricova’s game. She has been arguably the top player in the country for the past three, if not four, years.
“It’s easy to play with no pressure. She’s been the one for three years,” coach Amanda Augustus said. “Being consistent is one of the hardest things to do, and she doesn’t get enough credit.”
Augustus believes that Juricova’s play has continually improved, adding new dimensions to her game as the target on her back grows.
The Indoor Championships are a perfect opportunity for Juricova to regain her championship form. The courts of the Billie Jean Tennis Center in Queens have been historically favorable to the senior. Juricova won the tournament her sophomore year and reached the championship match last year.
The courts themselves may actually be even more favorable. Upon arrival at the complex, Augustus and Juricova noticed that the hard court is playing significantly slower than last season. Presumably, this will lead to longer points, putting fitness and athleticism at a premium — and Juricova is strong in these two areas.
Juricova will likely face many familiar opponents, as an amazing five of the top eight seeds in the singles draw are from the Pac-12. Denise Dy of Washington, another conference standout, will likely challenge Juricova early in the draw.
“In the Pac-12, we’re the conference of champions for a reason.” Augustus said.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team will head to Tempe, Ariz., for the Thunderbird Invitational. The tournament, which begins Friday, features two more Pac-12 teams: Utah and host Arizona State. The Sun Devils finished last season No. 18 in the country and are projected to be among the top ranks in the Pac-12 this season.
After this weekend, the Bears will not play for more than two months. In the four tournaments so far, the team has had mixed results. Although the doubles play raised concerns early, many of the kinks seem to have been ironed out.
“We have a month after this tournament to continue to work on things and continue to get better,” Augustus said. “Everyone is improving, but we’ll work on team culture and team chemistry.”
Sophomore Alice Duranteau will be a main beneficiary of the time off. Duranteau is 10-2 this season, but has struggled with a left shin injury. She will play in doubles in Tempe, but will be held out of singles.