To have a good season, a great preseason is necessary. Preseason tennis tournaments help the players identify weaknesses in their gameplay and also gain experience by playing different kinds of opponents. More importantly, the tournaments help the players gain confidence, which is crucial to a successful season. The Cal women’s tennis team will be hoping that the ITA All-American women’s championship will provide just that for its players.
The same players who participated at the Oracle/ITA Masters, senior Klara Fabikova and juniors Maegan Manasse and Denise Starr, will represent Cal at the ITA Women’s All-American championship along with sophomore Karla Popovic, who will be participating in the qualifying singles. The team hopes to put on a good show at the tournament, which features top players from across the country.
“I think the team is healthy and ready to go,” said Cal head coach Amanda Augustus. “The players have given some good performances in the past month and are very excited to play in Los Angeles. This is one of the team’s favorite events, and it’s like the first grand slam of college tennis, so we expect some tough competition.”
Fabikova will look to extend her good showing in singles tournaments. She was the runner up in singles at the Pac-12 championships in April and recently laid hands on some hardware by winning the consolation singles bracket at the Oracle/ITA Masters. Her ability to dictate play and hit winners across the court has been key to her impressive run in singles play.
“Klara has really proved herself as a tough competitor,” Augustus said. “She has been playing some fabulous tennis and is definitely a force to reckon with. She has a great chance at the tournament.”
Manasse captured the singles championship at the recently concluded Cal Nike Invitational. She faced teammate Fabikova in the final and defeated her, 6-1, 6-1. Manasse was also successful in doubles, as her pairing with Starr brought home the doubles title for the Bears. The pairing’s court coverage and aggressive stroke play was instrumental in the victory over the Sun Devils’ team of Alexandra Osborne and Ebony Panoho. Manasse also reached the singles semifinals at the Oracle/ITA Masters.
Starr, who has emerged as a doubles specialist, will participate in the doubles bracket along with Manasse. Starr’s efficiency with her groundstrokes and serves complements Manasse’s adept net play, as Starr’s stable groundstrokes pave the way for Manasse’s crafty volleys. They will be up against a tough pool of opponents that includes ASU’s Desirae Krawczyk and Stephanie Vlad. Starr also will be featured in the qualifying singles round.
“We’re a pretty aggressive team and will look to maintain that at the tournament,” Manasse said about her pairing with Starr. “The tournament has a lot of top players, but I believe we’re a good team and we can do anything on the court. We’ve fine-tuned a few aspects of our game and are looking forward to some competitive matches.”
A good result at the prestigious tournament will be a welcome addition to the Bears’ credentials. With two high-performing singles players and a proven doubles pairing, Cal is expected to come up with big performances at the tournament.
“It’s a really important tournament for the team,” Augustus said. “It’ll be nice and warm down in Los Angeles. We’ll put our sunscreen on and battle, and hopefully come home with some silverware.”
Devang Prasad covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].