In a tournament loaded with the best players in collegiate women’s tennis, anything can happen.
Unfortunately for the Bears, that unpredictability yielded disappointing results for Cal’s top players as they headed home after falling to other All-Americans in last week’s ITA All-American Championships in Los Angeles.
Despite hoping for late-round match play, Cal’s Zsofi Susanyi, Anett Schutting, Klara Fabikova and Lynn Chi were all back in Berkeley two days early after getting caught up in the tournament’s many upsets and surprises — the greatest of which culminated in unseeded Jamie Loeb’s win over No. 1 seed Robin Anderson in the singles final on Sunday. The Bears, meanwhile, did not advance farther than the second round of either the doubles or singles main draw despite holding some of the top seeds in the tournament.
The disappointing outcome echoes last year’s ITA All-American Championships result, when both Susanyi and Schutting lost in the same round of the main draw as they did in this year’s showing.
“A day after, I actually feel happy about what I did this week because now I know what I have to work on, and I’m able to carry this on to the next couple weeks,” Susanyi said.
The No. 4 ranked player first defeated opponent Sophie Oyen of Florida 6-3, 6-4 before losing to eventual tournament victor Loeb of North Carolina. Familiarity with her first opponent, ranked 16th in the country, was key to Susanyi’s initial success.
“I knew what to expect, I had a clear plan, and I was able to execute it in that match, so I’m really happy with that,” Susanyi said.
But in Susanyi’s second match, she was forced to improvise.
After falling behind 4-1 in the first set against an unfamiliar opponent, Susanyi came back to tie it up at 5-5. However, relentless rallies and a searing return from Loeb left Susanyi just a few points shy of capturing the first set. Ultimately, these key points were what cost Susanyi the set and started a downward spiral that left her with a tournament-ending loss of 7-6, 6-1.
The high-endurance style of play in Susanyi’s match appeared to be an essential characteristic of last week’s competition. It was not uncommon for the number of shots in a rally to go beyond 10 or 20 during Cal’s matches. In comparison, the first rounds of the Nike Invitational back in Berkeley saw ball numbers of about three to four.
“National tournaments like this, everybody has that base, and we just have to keep building up that base and make adjustments — probably like three or four adjustments — each set,” Susanyi said.
Making these key adjustments will be necessary as the Bears look to move forward from an underwhelming tournament outcome. Facing the toughest competition in collegiate women’s tennis is no small order, and any victory in a tournament of this caliber is a success this early in the season. Sophomores Chi and Fabikova both had significant wins in the qualifying and consolation rounds, which featured some of the top 30 players in the country.
“I think we made some great strides this week,” said head coach Amanda Augustus. “It was a really good step up, and I think they learned a lot from their experience down there.”
Later in the season, however, these strides will need to translate to wins if this squad of top-ranked players hopes to meet expectations on a national level.
Dani Coony covers women’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected].