No. 8 Cal women’s tennis falls to Duke in semifinals of ITA National Women’s Tennis Indoor Championships

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With the contest deadlocked at 3-3, the stage was set for a dramatic finale. One by one, the players shuffled to the sidelines to watch it unfold — it was what Cal head coach Amanda Augustus called “last-man tennis.” Maegan Manasse slammed the ball with a topspin-heavy forehand. The ball soared high across the net, putting Mia King of Georgia on the defensive. King, unable to recover, dropped the point and the match, with Manasse clinching the victory for No. 8 Cal women’s tennis.

At the ITA National Women’s Tennis Indoor Championship, sixth-seeded Cal clawed its way to the semifinals, winning two of three matches. Over the course of three days, the Bears defeated 13th-seeded Clemson and third-seeded Georgia, 4-2 and 4-3, respectively, but came up short against Duke, 4-2. The Blue Devils will play fourth-seeded UCLA in the finals Monday.

“They’re a good team, and we’re a good team,” Augustus said. “We had good matchups on every court like we did against Georgia. It was literally a couple points on a couple courts.”

Against Georgia and Duke, the contests were ultimately decided by Manasse’s matches. On Saturday, she came up with a huge victory over the Bulldogs — the team that knocked Cal out of the tournament last year. But against Duke, Marianne Jodoin stole the tiebreaker after splitting the first two sets, 1-6, 6-3, giving the Blue Devils the finals appearance against fourth-seeded UCLA on Monday.

“The deciding factor was definitely Maegan,” Augustus said. “It came down to three-all, and that happens a lot. We talk about who is going to be the last one standing, and she did it. She wasn’t nervous and thrived in that environment.”

Cal started singles play trailing after losing the doubles point for the third straight day against Duke. Denise Starr and senior Kelly Chui were first topped by Ester Goldfeld and Alyssa Smith in a court two matchup. But the Bears came surging back after Lynn Chi and Alice Duranteau defeated Annie Mulholland and Marianne Jodoin on court three. With the doubles point on the line, Beatrice Capra and Hanna Mar narrowly beat Manasse and Anett Schutting, 7-6.

The ITA Indoors were played in an experimental format, in which a match tiebreaker is played in lieu of a third set if the first two sets are split.

“Given the format of the tournament, we didn’t have a lot of flexibility,” Augustus said. “When we get home, we’ll definitely be reworking our doubles lineups and practicing a lot more doubles. That is the area where we could have been better.”

Four of six singles matches went to tiebreakers, with Fabikova topping Rachel Kahan, 6-4, 3-6, 1-0 (3), to give Cal its first point. No. 16 Zsofi Susanyi then tied the overall match with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over Smith.

But the tie did not last long, with Chi dropping a close 6-3, 3-6, 1-0 match against Mar on court three. With the match on the line, Jodoin finally put the Bears down with a narrow victory over Manasse, leaving Schutting’s match against Ester Gofield abandoned.

“It’s hard to say, but I think (the results) would’ve looked different,” Schutting said. “Because its so short, (the tiebreaker) doesn’t really show who’s the better player, especially when we talk about fitness and physicality. Personally, I don’t like it — it’s too short.”

Winston Cho covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected]