On Thursday, senior Denise Starr of the Cal women’s tennis team will participate in the Oracle ITA Masters tournament, hosted by the Malibu Racquet Club and Pepperdine University.
Starr, initially an alternate, did not know until Wednesday that she would be competing in the tournament, which will run from Thursday to Sunday. Despite her entry as an alternate, Starr has been given the 10th seed in the 32-player main draw.
Last year at the Oracle ITA Masters, Cal’s Maegan Manasse, seeded first, reached the semifinals before losing to Virginia’s Danielle Collins. This year, Starr will be looking to make another deep run for the Bears, but the field has doubled from 16 players last year and will feature several more tough opponents from around the nation.
If Starr wins her opening round against New Mexico State’s Rimpledeep Kaur, she has a potential matchup with Duke’s Meible Chi, who is the seventh seed. Looking further ahead, the Cal senior could clash with UCLA’s Ena Shibahara, the tournament’s No. 2 seed.
Also competing in this weekend’s tournament are North Carolina’s Hayley Carter and Pepperdine’s Luisa Stefani, who are the No. 1 and 2 ranked players in the nation, respectively. This weekend, however, Stefani is the top seed and Carter is the fifth seed. With so many of the nation’s top players competing in Malibu, Starr will get a good look at her team’s strongest competitors before the regular season starts up next semester.
It is still early in the season, but Starr has work to do if she wants to improve her ranking. At the Cal Fall Nike Invitational, she reached the semifinals of the top singles flight before falling to Arizona State’s Kassidy Jump, 6-2, 5-7, 6-4.
At last week’s Riviera ITA All-American Championships, Starr got off to a slow start, dropping her opening-round match to Alabama’s Andie Daniell, 6-3, 7-5. She recovered well, however, winning her consolation draw opening match against Wichita State’s Gabriela Porubin with a score of 6-4, 6-1. She also won her second consolation match against Washington State’s Donika Bashota, 6-4, 6-2.
Facing strong competition, Starr will have a great opportunity to continue finding her peak form as she forges ahead in her final season as a Bear.
Nikhil Bhumralkar covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].