Court Coverage With Nina Pantic

Sept. 23, 2009

Get ready L.A., the UCLA women's tennis team is back in town. The first day of practice is officially set for September 22, but most of us have been hitting the blue courts on our own in preparation. On a personal note, I'm thrilled to have finally risen to the status of 'returner' and will never again have to hear the words 'don't forget the baskets' (as in the gear for practice).

Prior to returning to school, a few of my teammates and I were lucky enough to be in New York City for the U.S. Open. Senior Yasmin Schnack, traveling with her good friend Vania King, was courtside for all the live action and had access to the player's lounge (thanks to a world class credential badge) and was bumping into superstars like Roger Federer and former Bruin star Riza Zalameda. Riza lost a tight first round doubles match with partner Ahsha Rolle, but is hastily moving towards a top 100 WTA doubles ranking. She continues to inspire the current team members to work even harder, as her success grows by the second.

While all the action was going on at the courts, junior Maya Johansson was working backstage for Lacoste (the French clothing company currently dressing Andy Roddick). She clearly enjoyed the privileged life, lounging around in the fine suites inside Arthur Ashe stadium, staying in the Novotel's 21st floor - complete with a jaw-dropping view of Times Square. She even traveled by private bus to and from Flushing Meadows (instead of crowding awkwardly on the Subway with me and the rest of the world).

My few days at the Open were spent watching the professionals battle it out, all while displaying the ground strokes, footwork, and mentality of God-like magnitude. You can bet I was taking notes and videotaping the action for future studying. Okay, maybe that's a generous exaggeration since I spent most of my time wandering the streets of downtown as a tourist. I took a double-decker bus tour, a cruise around the statue of liberty, and biked through Central Park. I also purchased a few three-dollar 'I Heart NY' t-shirts, along with enough postcards to carpet the entire length of Bruin Walk.

Now that the U.S. Open is long gone and summer is officially over, we turn our attention to the fall season, where all the tournaments are individual endeavors unlike the team dual matches in the spring. It's not as much drama and excitement as the team season, but needless to say, we represent UCLA every time we step on the court and take all the matches very seriously. Our team is ready to compete and eager to show the coaches that the work put in over the summer was in fact not a joke. We've already begun working out with our athletic performance coach Jacqueline Harris, and the gym is feeling much more spirited again since we're now strolling in as a group of eight instead of the few players we had over the summer. It's a new year and we're starting off with some fresh faces, a new strength coach, revamped attitudes, and some fierce black bandanas.

The Bruins kick things off on October 3 at home for the pre-qualifications of the ITA All-American Championships. We will then move over to the Riviera Tennis Club (just 10 minutes away) for the main draw. Last year we didn't perform to UCLA standards, but that's the past. I was able to get a glimpse of the trophies at last year's All-American Championships and they're so unreal that it's about time a Bruin takes one home.

So that's it. We would love to see you at some of our upcoming fall tournaments. I like to compare the fall season to seeing a Hollywood blockbuster trailer prior to its world premier. So come out and get a sneak preview of what's to come for the UCLA women's tennis team in 2010. GO BRUINS!

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