After being sidelined for the last month with a hip flexor strain, Zsofi Susanyi, the No. 3 singles player in the country, finally returned to the court last weekend.
The excitement of her return for Cal fans can only be matched by the excitement from Susanyi herself. For the last month, she could be seen in the stands of the Hellman Tennis Complex doing her homework. With her return, she was finally back in her natural element.
Cal (10-4, 4-0 in the Pac-12) dominated Colorado and Utah at Berkeley this weekend as expected, sweeping both matches 7-0. But all eyes were on Susanyi, and her return was not as easy as the overall match scores would suggest.
Susanyi started by playing doubles with freshman Klara Fabikova on the second court against Colorado (6-10, 1-5). At first, she looked rusty, and the duo started the match with an early 2-1 deficit. Susanyi’s timing was off and she was regularly hitting shots wide or into the net.
But with the help and encouragement of Fabikova and associate head coach Cordell Ho, Susanyi was able to find her rhythm.
“They were just telling me the right things, they were telling me what to do,” Susanyi said. “Klara and I were able to communicate well and also figure out a gameplan for each point so that worked well.”
Susanyi and Fabikova were able to finish the doubles match with an 8-3 victory.
The next day against the Utes (7-6, 1-4), Susanyi skipped the doubles match to play singles against Utah’s Callie Craig on the third court instead. With Susanyi hoping for a triumphant return, and Craig looking at a rare opportunity to knock off the No. 3 player in the country, the match was intense.
Susanyi dropped four of her first five sets against Craig, falling to an early 4-1 deficit. Again, Susanyi was hitting balls wide or just into the net. Craig was running her up and down the court, and Susanyi was unable to get aggressive.
Midway through the first set, Susanyi hit a ball that looked to be clearly in but was called out by the official. Susanyi disputed the call but to no avail. Just a couple of points later, Susanyi hit a very low bouncing ball that may have hit the court twice.
The official called it a good hit, but Craig tried to dispute it. Even Utah’s Natasha Smith, playing on the fourth court just next door, chimed in.
Around now, Susanyi reworked her strategy and ran away with the match. By working balls toward the middle of the court, Susanyi was able to wait for the shot that she wanted and take advantage. She won the next 11 straight points to finish the match 6-4, 6-0. The Susanyi of old had returned.
When midway through the second set, Susanyi spiked a ball and turned to her coach to flash an ear-to-ear grin. Despite the early struggles and intensity, she was back to doing what she loves.
“It’s so exciting,” Susanyi said. “Now I’m on the court, I feel better, and it’s just really great.”