Klara Fabikova of No. 3 Cal women’s tennis falls to UCLA’s Catherine Harrison during Pac-12 singles final

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The No. 3 Cal women’s tennis team proved its worth in the regular season after finishing second in the Pac-12 conference, but this weekend, it was the players’ turns to display their strengths on a more individual level at the Pac-12 championships in Ojai, California. The Bears had some strong performances in both the singles and doubles tournaments.

The highlight of the tournament was No. 25 junior Klara Fabikova, who made it to the finals of the singles championship, where she fell to UCLA’s No. 67 Catherine Harrison. Fabikova had a fabulous run in the tournament, as she defeated a tough crop of opponents en route to the finals. Her powerful strokes were crucial in her impressive run.

“It feels great to have had a good tournament,” Fabikova said of her run. “I think I played pretty well throughout. My serves went well, and I was able to place my shots where I wanted to. It was a very good experience overall, and I’m happy with my performance.”

No. 42 Denise Starr and No. 41 Zsofi Susanyi were knocked out in the round of 16. Starr served well in her match, but her opponent, Utah’s Teresa Bekerova, was able to post the win.

Fabikova also featured in the semifinals of the doubles championship along with her partner, senior Susanyi. The pair, ranked No. 6 in the nation, played some grueling matches throughout the tournament but was unable to defeat Stanford’s No. 18 pair of Caroline Doyle and Ellen Tsay. The No. 8 team of sophomores Maegan Manasse and Starr reached the other semifinal but had to retire because of injury concerns for Manasse.

“We had a solid run in the doubles,” said head coach Amanda Augustus. “(They all) played well, and an appearance in the semifinals was great for both the teams.”

This year’s Pac-12 championships was also the first for freshmen Karla Popovic and Lyann Hoang, as well as sophomore Stephane Lin. While Hoang, Lin and senior Cecilia Estlander fell in the first round of the singles invitationals, Popovic battled her way to the round of 16, where she fell to USC’s Zoe Katz. In Popovic’s first match against Arizona’s Inge Hendrikx — which Popovic won, 6-1, 6-1 — she utilized her forehand topspin to devastating effect. She could not, however, step it up in the next set of matches as she committed a lot of unforced errors and was outplayed by Katz.

“Lyann, Karla and Stephane did really well in their first appearance,” Augustus said. “They played good tennis and, more importantly, got a lot of experience playing different kinds of opponents. This will be valuable for the NCAAs.”

Popovic also featured in the doubles invitational alongside junior Lynn Chi. They beat UCLA’s Terri Fleming and Maia Magill to book a place in the quarterfinals. Chi’s accurate serves and precise flat strokes complemented Popovic’s topspin game in the match. They then had a taxing match in the quarterfinals against Washington’s Capucine Gregoire and Riko Shimizu, which the Cal duo ultimately lost.

“It was a great experience for the whole team,” Augustus said. “We learned a lot throughout the tournament and became tougher mentally and physically as it wore on. It is an old and prestigious tournament, and the players enjoyed competing. Klara’s (Fabikova) run was tremendous. Being a Pac-12 finalist is a great honor. It’s earned her a place on our McManus Legacy Wall back home. Now, we’re looking forward to the NCAA draw.”

Devang Prasad covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].