The Cal women’s tennis team entered the season as a top-heavy team led by defending Jana Juricova. Questions remained about the back end of the Bears’ squad, but Juricova’s success was seen as a given. After more than a month of play, this initial conjecture has flown off the rails.
Juricova was unable to end her malaise, as the star was again ousted prematurely, this time at the National Indoor Championships in New York. After winning her first two matches to reach the quarterfinals, Juricova fell to Washington’s Denise Dy, 5-7, 6-2, 3-6.
Almost exactly one year ago, Juricova beat Dy in the quarterfinals of the same tournament, 6-2, 6-1, in the midst of a remarkable stretch. The four sets that Juricova did drop in the 2010 fall tournament season were to the No. 2 and No. 3 players in the nation.
Juricova’s lack of success may be attributed to the fact that she took time away from tennis after winning last year’s NCAA singles championship. The eventual champion of the Indoors, Marta Lesniak of Southern Methodist, seemed to vastly improve her game since last season, when she lost in the first round to Juricova.
“I think the takeaway is that Jana struggled mentally playing two matches in a day,” coach Amanda Augustus said. “It would have been great to win a championship, but I definitely thought there was improvement.”
Despite a 13-3 record this year, Juricova’s top finish has been a loss in the semifinals of the Northwest Regionals two weeks ago. In the past two seasons, she has reached the finals of four fall championship matches.
While Juricova’s performance was underwhelming, the rest of the Cal team had a strong showing at the Thunderbird Invitational in Tempe, Ariz. Three of the four semifinalists donned the blue and gold, and freshman Sofie Susanyi thumped top-seeded teammate junior Tayler Davis in the championship match, 6-0, 6-2.
This was Susanyi’s first tournament win and a fitting conclusion to her remarkable fall season. Despite fighting a cold, Susanyi was able to beat Davis.
The Bears were 20-7 in singles during the weekend in a tournament that featured four teams ranked at the end of last year, including Big Ten powerhouses Michigan and Northwestern.
The results of the weekend showcase the differences in the Bears’ team. Last season, there was a lack of depth that hurt the team in duals play. Juricova lost just once on the No. 1 singles court, a loss that spelled the end of Cal’s season in the third round of the NCAA tournament.
While Juricova is clearly still the top athlete, this team may not be all about the senior from Slovakia.
The Cal newcomers – Susanyi and Cecilia Estlander – have gone 13-2 and 9-5, respectively. Despite a shin injury, sophomore Alice Duranteau also has posted a 10-2 mark this season.
“Depth is the key to winning matches,” Cal assistant coach Cordell Ho said. “This tournament felt like a team event, and it was a good way to end the season.”