After a stellar regular season yielded second place in the Pac-12 with a record of 9-1 and six Pac-12 Player of the Week awards, the No. 3 Cal women’s tennis team (20-3) will take a detour from dual match play as it heads to the Pac-12 championships in Ojai, California, which start Thursday and end Sunday.
The Bears will look to make an impact at the Pac-12 championships both in doubles and singles. The 32-player singles tournament is made up of three players from each top-10 team in the conference and two players from the team that finished 11th. The doubles draw is made up of one team from each of the 11 schools and five additional teams that are selected from the draw committee.
“It’s one of the largest and oldest tournaments in California,” said Cal head coach Amanda Augustus. “It’s very prestigious to be a Pac-12 champion in doubles or singles, and it will be great for the players to have another week of competitive tennis.”
The five Pac-12 Player of the Week recipients in its ranks demonstrate Cal’s depth this season. No. 3 sophomore Maegan Manasse, No. 25 junior Klara Fabikova, No. 41 senior Zsofi Susanyi, No. 42 sophomore Denise Starr and No. 92 freshman Karla Popovic all received the award this season.
Fabikova has posted an overall singles record of 27-7 and has played on court No. 1 and court No. 2 in dual matches. Fabikova’s powerful strokes have been crucial in her consistent performance this year and will be an important factor at the Pac-12 championships.
“I am really glad I got to play on different courts,” Fabikova said. “I learned a lot. Of course in the top draw, you get to face the best players of the schools and playing on court No. 1 was very helpful in getting a taste of playing top players of other schools.”
Another consistent performer for Cal has been Starr, who went undefeated in singles in Pac-12 play. She has a 32-6 overall singles record and has had considerable experience playing different kinds of opponents, playing on both court No. 2 and court No. 3. Her mental toughness is one of her biggest strengths and was evident in the regular season as she clinched the highest number of overall wins for the Bears.
“I am confident heading in to the Pac-12 championships,” Starr said. “I have to take every match 100 percent seriously. I can’t underestimate any opponent, and I expect the championships to be a battle mentally and physically.”
Since her return from injury, junior No. 49 Lynn Chi is on a good run in singles and has been giving superlative performances. She was the first to post a win against Stanford, where she steamrolled her opponent with her precise flat strokes. Susanyi, too, has been playing great tennis and will look to go far in the singles championships.
“What’s been great about this season is that everybody has had the chance to compete at a high level,” Augustus said. “The thing about this competition is that you never know who’s going to step up and put it all together.”
Cal’s doubles teams will be a force to reckon with as the team of Susanyi and Fabikova is ranked sixth, and the team of Chi and Starr is ranked 45th. The teams’ performances this season have been noteworthy, only dropping two doubles points this year.
“We’ve got a couple of teams that have a really good shot at it, “ Augustus said of the team’s chances in the doubles championship. “Historically, we’ve done well at the doubles, and it will be really good competition for us as the other schools have some good teams.”
If multiple Bears progress to the latter stages of the tournament, there might be a situation in which they have to face each other.
“If they get to that point in the tournament it means they’ve played really well,” Augustus said. “They practice against each other, but when something is on the line, it is great to see who can step it up. I’d be perfectly happy if two Bears were in each final. A coach can’t ask for more than that.”
Devang Prasad covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].