During tournament season in women’s tennis, the odd situation of a player facing her own teammate is a real possibility. For Cal, it is almost tradition at the annual Cal Nike Invitational. Despite a field of 97 players from more than a dozen different teams, most of the Bears played against their own teammates when they reached the final rounds of last weekend’s tournament.
The three-day home court tournament ended on Sunday with an all-Cal sweep of the top flight singles and doubles titles. Cal’s No. 1 seed Zsofi Susanyi defeated teammate Anett Schutting 6-1, 6-1 in the Blue-Flight singles final, and the combination of Susanyi and Klara Fabikova defeated teammates Schutting and Lynn Chi 8-6 in the doubles final. The Bears also picked up a Gold-Flight doubles title with the unseeded duo of Alice Duranteau and Cessi Estlander.
“I’m proud of what they’ve done this weekend,” said head coach Amanda Augustus. “We’ve only been training for a few weeks. It’s good to see that some of the things we’ve been working on are being put into their match play, under pressure, successfully.”
Cal’s success is reminiscent of last year’s Nike Invitational, in which Susanyi also took home the top-flight singles crown in a 6-0, 6-2 win over Schutting. That year, Schutting earned the top-flight doubles title with her partner, the now-graduated Annie Goransson.
The Bears had an even greater presence in the late rounds of the tournament this year. Sophomore Lynn Chi upset USC’s No. 3 seed Brynn Boren 6-1, 6-4 to reach the semifinal match against Susanyi in the Blue-Flight tournament.
“Lynn and I are really close, and I was talking to her last night about playing her in singles and doubles,” Susanyi said. “But when I’m playing an individual tournament, I kind of have to close that out and focus on what I’m doing on the court.”
But Susanyi’s teammates were not the only familiar faces on the court she had to worry about. In the quarterfinals, Susanyi faced rival Jenny Jullien of Saint Mary’s in a three-hour tournament-highlight match that tested the endurance of both players. In last year’s Nike Invitational semifinals, Susanyi defeated Jullien in a three-set thriller, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2.
After a quick 4-1 lead by Susanyi, a multiple-deuce game proved to be a turning point for Jullien. During the game, uncharacteristic errors from both players frustrated the two, who both seemed to want a clean end to battle.
“I wanted it to go cross-court, and it goes down the line — how is that even possible?” said Jullien after losing the fifth deuce.
In the end, Jullien won the pivotal game to bring the set score to 4-2. Afterward, she surged to tie the game 4-4. From that point on, the game was a back-and-forth struggle for both players that culminated in a 7-6, 7-5 win for Susanyi. Twenty-plus-point rallies left both exhausted, and it was ultimately Susanyi’s patient and enduring playing style that allowed her to pull through.
“Every time I play Jenny, I go on court knowing that is going to be a long match, and I’m going to have to fight,” Susanyi said.
Following the grueling test in the quarters, Susanyi faced her teammates in the semis and eventually the finals in what would be a streamlined performance against both Chi and Schutting. This type of play will be necessary as the No. 4 player in the country looks forward to future matchups this season. For now, she is satisfied with achieving the goal she made from the outset of this tournament.
“My goal is to win the tournament,” Susanyi said last Friday.
Three days and 10 straight winning singles sets later, she met and exceeded this goal.
Dani Coony covers women’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected].