On Thursday and Friday, Cal senior Denise Starr participated in the second annual Oracle ITA Masters tournament, hosted by the Malibu Racquet Club and Pepperdine University.
Starr, currently ranked 62nd in the ITA rankings, lost in the Round of 16 on Friday morning. Starr was initially an alternate in the tournament, and she learned that she would be competing just a day before the opening round of play.
“Denise is a senior, and she’s learned how to be prepared and is very accustomed to competing a lot,” said head coach Amanda Augustus. “We were just happy to be invited.”
Starr also stated that although she traveled to Southern California on short notice, she did not prepare differently and is always ready to compete. She also took part in the doubles tournament in 2015 along with fellow senior Maegan Manasse, but the pair lost in the semifinals.
Because of a lingering injury to the seventh-ranked Manasse, Starr traveled to Malibu alone this year as the 10th seed in the singles draw.
In her opening round Thursday morning, Starr faced off against New Mexico State’s Rimpledeep Kaur, who was seeded 23rd in the tournament. A seasoned doubles player, Starr was able to use her solid net game as an advantage and easily defeated Kaur by a score of 6-1, 6-2.
“I think I definitely served really well in that match and tried to come up and finish points at the net with overheads or swing volleys,” Starr said.
Starr next faced Duke freshman Meible Chi, seeded seventh, in the Round of 16 on Friday morning. Chi is the younger sister of former Cal tennis player Lynn Chi, who graduated last year.
“We are very familiar with (Chi) and she will be a very strong player for Duke in the years to come,” Augustus said. “This match was all about Denise trying to play her own game, and there were just a few points that didn’t go her way today.”
Although inexperienced, Chi was able to play bigger on the more important points in the match and won the three-set match, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. Chi secured herself a quarterfinal berth against the second seed, UCLA’s Ena Shibahara.
”I was trying to make little adjustments as the match went along, but some of the important points didn’t play out how I wanted them to,” Starr said.
Also on Thursday, Starr participated in the mixed doubles draw of the tournament. Pairing up with fellow Pac-12 player Nick Crystal of USC, the duo competed against Idaho State’s Marianna Petrei and Portland State’s Nathan Boneil, falling 6-3 in the round of 32.
After spending her last two tournaments away from the rest of her teammates, Starr will rejoin other Bears at the USTA/ITA Northwest Regional Championships, which will be held at Stanford.
“I feel like we are doing great and are ready to compete our hearts out and give 100 percent on the courts (next week),” Starr concluded.
The singles and doubles winners of the tournament, which runs from Oct. 21 to Oct. 24, will qualify for the national indoor tournament in New York.
Nikhil Bhumralkar covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].