The Cal women’s tennis team will be celebrating Homecoming in style this weekend, as it hosts 13 other schools in the annual Cal Nike Invitational. The three-day event starts Friday and the fortuitous timing will allow visiting alumni and parents the opportunity to see some early-season play on display at the Hellman Tennis Complex.
Last year’s Nike Invitational was dominated by fourth-ranked junior Maegan Manasse. After winning the doubles championship with partner Denise Starr over another Cal team (senior Lynn Chi and Zsofi Susanyi, who graduated last year), Manasse beat Starr 6-4, 6-4 in the singles finals. Cal head coach Amanda Augustus would have no problem with an another all-Cal final.
“It’s nice, it’s what we want to have on finals day. We don’t coach them when the play each other, so it’s just a good opportunity for us to watch as coaches, [to see] what they’ve learned, and what adjustments they’ve made to each other’s game because they play each other every day in practice,” Augustus said. “If it’s in a final, it’s always good to see, I never mind that.”
The strongest non-Cal player competing in the Nike Invitational will most likely be senior Desirae Krawczyk of Arizona State, who is ranked 26th in singles. Krawczyk was one of Arizona State’s two representatives in the NCAA Individuals tournament, and was named to the All Pac-12 second team. She also has a history with Manasse; in high school, they played in the finals of the CIF Southern Section Singles Championship, and Manasse walked away with the title.
Although the Invitational has traditionally served as the season-opener for the Bears, that will not be the case this year. Cal has already played in two events this year, but members of the team were divided between two simultaneous tournaments. This will be the first time they will all be competing together and at all full strength. 16th-ranked senior Klara Fabikova will be competing with a title already under her belt. Fabikova won the consolation singles draw at the Oracle ITA Masters in Malibu two weeks ago, beating Miami’s sixth-ranked Stephanie Wagner 6-2, 6-3 in the finals.
Also in Malibu, Manasse competed in both the singles draw and the doubles draw. Manasse reached the semifinals in both the singles and the doubles draw while teamed with Starr.
At the same time, Karla Popovic and Lynn Hoang were competing in the Battle of the Bay in San Francisco, playing in both singles and doubles. Both won one only round in singles, and lost in the first round as a team in the doubles draw.
This invitational will also serve as a warm-up for Manasse, Starr, Popovic and Fabikova, who will all be participating in the ITA Women’s All-American Championship next week in the Pacific Palisades. Manasse and Fabikova have both already made the main draw for the tournament, while Starr and Popovic will both be in the qualifying draw. On the doubles side, Manasse and Starr have clinched a spot in the main draw of the doubles tournament, while Fabikova and Popovic will play in the qualifying draw.
“I feel like it will be good match play, and it will be good to get on the court and be in the situations we’ll be in next week, so it’s a good prep for the All-American,” Starr said.
Andrew Wild covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected]