Juricova breaks through to capture NCAA Singles crown

Two-set sweep in title match clinches the program's second ever NCAA singles title

Jeffrey Joh/File
On her way to winning the NCAA singles title, Jana Juricova posted two-set victories in each of the first three rounds.

For all its championship banners and record win streaks, Stanford’s Taube Tennis Center may have a soft spot for Cal women’s tennis.

On Monday, Jana Juricova hoisted the NCAA Singles Championships trophy — on the very same courts where the Bears’ Susie Babos lifted hers in 2006.

The top-seeded Juricova defeated Cardinal sophomore Stacey Tan, 6-0, 7-6 (2), at a match that looked more like the Big Slam between Cal and Stanford than an NCAA title game. When Juricova won the match, a roar of Bears fans in the stands nearly drowned her victorious yell.

“It was so great that we had the tournament at Stanford because we had so many fans that could just drive over and support the team,” Cal coach Amanda Augustus said.

Playing in her second NCAA singles final, Juricova came out firing against the slow-starting Tan and took command of the entire first set. In the second set, Tan’s aggressive approach worked well as the two traded points until the set went to a tie-break.

Within sight of the title, Juricova shifted to another gear, blazing past Tan to a 5-0 lead and eventually the winning the tie-break, 8-2.

“Through my experiences, I can pick up the style and tempo of the match, and in the first set, I saw that Tan was starting a bit slow,” Juricova said. “But in the second set, she had nothing to lose, so she came out swinging, but I expected she will do that and I was ready.”

Coming into both the singles and doubles tournament as the top player in the nation, Juricova faced high expectations. She certainly lived up to them in singles play, cruising to two-set wins in each of the first
three rounds.

In Saturday’s quarterfinals, Juricova blew away Georgia’s Chelsey Gullickson — who won last year’s NCAA singles final against Juricova — with a convincing 6-3, 6-0 victory.

The next day, Juricova faced her first real test of the tournament against the Cardinal’s 18th-ranked Nicole Gibbs. In a dogfight of a match, Juricova was able to control late in the third set — an appropriate timing to win her the tie-break and the match, 6-7 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (2).

“Beating Chelsey Gullickson stood out as memorable because I have never beaten her before. I just had to trust my game and believe I can beat anyone,” Juricova said. “The semi-final match was just crazy because it was so close that it really could have gone either way.”

Juricova, alongside senior Mari Andersson, also came into the doubles tournament as the No. 1 seed, but fell short in the semi-finals on Sunday against the Cardinal’s Hilary Barte and Mallory Burdette.

After losing the first set, 6-1, Juricova and Andersson had no solutions against Barte and Burdette — falling into a 5-0 hole in the second set. Despite showing life to rally back to 5-4, it was too little, too late.

As the lone senior for the Bears in the tournament, Andersson also made a huge push in singles play, pulling a major upset against the No. 2-seeded Maria Sanchez and reaching the quarterfinals before
succumbing to Florida’s Lauren Embree.

“Throughout my college career, I was always noticed as a doubles player. In this last tournament at Stanford, I proved to myself that I am also a good singles player, too,” Andersson said. “It was a very satisfying experience for me to realize that in my college career.”

Seung Y. Lee covers women’s tennis.