Cal women’s tennis sends four to tough field of All-Americans

Kevin Hahn/Staff

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Following a successful weekend at home, the Cal women’s tennis team will send four singles players and two doubles teams to Los Angeles to compete against a field composed entirely of All-Americans.

The Riviera/ITA All-American Championships begin this Tuesday and will end on Sunday at the Riviera Tennis Club. Taking place in just the first week of the competitive season, the All-American Championships are known as the first of the three grand slams in collegiate women’s tennis. The competition will test the top-ranked Cal players on a different level from what they have seen so far in the nascent 2013-14 season.

“Those that are going this week are going to have a much stiffer test, and I think that will really give us a look at everyone in the country,” said head coach Amanda Augustus.

The Bears heading to Southern California this week include Anett Schutting and Zsofi Susanyi, ranked No. 5 and No. 4 in the country, respectively. Both are automatically slotted to compete in the main draw of the singles tournament on Thursday. In the singles qualifying rounds, sophomores Lynn Chi and Klara Fabikova will represent Cal as they each compete for one of the eight open spots in the main draw. The four of them also make up the two doubles teams playing this week.

On Tuesday, match play will kick-off as the No.7 seed Fabikova and Susanyi face Goldfeld and Mulholland of Duke in the qualifying doubles tournament. Cal’s combination hopes to build on the momentum it gained after winning the top-flight doubles title at last weekend’s Cal Nike Invitational. On the way to this victory, they defeated top-seeded teammates Chi and Schutting, who have automatic bids in the main doubles draw this Thursday and are ranked 11th in the country.

“I think it was good preparation for us,” said Fabikova. “To me, it was definitely a little bit of a struggle, but I think it’s good that we got these first matches in here and we’re ready to play down in L.A.”

Among this week’s cutthroat field are reigning Riviera/ITA All-American doubles champions Sabrina Santamaria and Kaitlyn Christian of USC. Santamaria also holds the No. 1 preseason ranking and will compete in the main singles draw this year. The top-ranked Trojan was missing from last weekend’s Nike Invitational, so the Bears have yet to prove themselves against such steep competition.

Last year, Cal’s early foray into the big leagues did not go as well as expected. None of the Bears made it past the second round of the main draw, despite Susanyi holding the No. 2 seed in the main draw of the singles tournament. This year, the top player hopes to build on the skills that allowed her to triumph at last weekend’s Nike Invitational.

“Steady from the baseline, that’s something that I really need (this week) because all players in the country — all of the top 30 probably — are really tough. So I have to play my A-game and bring it all the time, every match,” said Susanyi.

The Bears head to the first grand slam this season with a more experienced crew of singles and doubles combinations than they have had in several years. But whether they meet success this week, coach Augustus realizes the importance of keeping the season in perspective.

“We’ll be able to build from there, and that’s kind of our goal — to just build through the fall semester and hopefully be peaking by the end of fall,” Augustus said.

Dani Coony covers women’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected].