Cal women’s tennis starts season with two tournaments

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The Cal women’s tennis team’s season will start this week when the Bears head out to play in two tournaments, the Battle in the Bay Classic and the Oracle/ITA Masters. The Bears are coming off a strong 2014-15 season in which they finished in second place in the Pac-12 and reached the NCAA round of 16. The team also finished the season ranked 7th nationally.

The Battle in the Bay classic, taking place in San Francisco from Friday to Sunday, will feature a women’s field for the first time in seven years. Two players, sophomores Karla Popovic and Lyann Hoang, will represent Cal.

Popovic is seeded third in the singles draw. She will also team up with Hoang for the doubles tournament. Popovic posted a 42-10 record in singles last year and will look to start the season on a similar note.

Hoang was featured relatively less than her doubles partner last season but played some impressive tennis whenever she had the opportunity. Her performance against Oregon’s Paloma Gomez in April was one to watch, as Hoang played next-to-perfect tennis in her straight set win over Gomez, 6-1, 6-0.

“Both Karla (Popovic) and Lyann (Hoang) played frequently last year and have a year of experience,” said head coach Amanda Augustus. “Hopefully, both of them will do quite well there. It’ll be a good opportunity for them to play matches over the weekend. The tournament will be a good way to start competitive matches.”

The Oracle/ITA Masters will also take place from Friday through Sunday in Malibu and will feature three Cal players: senior Klara Fabikova and juniors Maegan Manasse and Denise Starr. While Fabikova and Manasse will be playing in the 16-player singles field, Starr will team up with Manasse in the 8-team doubles field.

“This tournament should feature some really good competition for all three of them,” Augustus said. “I think they’re ready. Maegan (Manasse) just came back from New York, and Klara (Fabikova) and Denise (Starr) look to start their season.”

Manasse had an impressive 2014-15 season. She was ranked No. 1 for a period of two weeks and compiled a 38-9 record in singles. Her aggressive gameplay faced little opposition throughout the season and paved the way for her good performances as well as being named in All-Pac 12 First Team selections. She also recently competed in the American Collegiate Invitational at the U.S. Open.

Starr’s pairing with Manasse was successful last season, as they reached the semifinals of the Pac-12 championships. The pair generally played on court No. 1 and were responsible for many crucial victories throughout the season. Starr’s telepathic understanding with Manasse makes the pair one to watch in doubles matchups.

Fabikova is coming off a strong season as well. She had a 32-10 record in singles and reached the finals of the Pac-12 singles championships. Along with then-senior Zsofi Susanyi, Fabikova reached the doubles final of the NCAA championships. Her hard-hitting style was crucial to her success in both singles and doubles.

“It’s my last season here, and I hope it starts well,” Fabikova said. “I had a good season last time around and look to do better this year.”

A new season is full of new beginnings and surprises. The two tournaments will be a good test for the players and will be helpful in preparing them for the matches that are to come as the season progresses.

“Everyone’s going to be a top-10 player,” Starr said. “This tournament’s going to set the tone for how the season will be and how we have to play against the top players. It will be a great first tournament to start off with.”

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