Court Coverage With Nina Pantic

Jan. 13, 2010

Happy New Year Bruins! 2010 has brought on a really positive vibe to the UCLA women's tennis team thus far. After we've spent three weeks scattered across the country - and in the case of Maya Johansson across the ocean - the team's reunited and eager to start the season. The very first day of practice brought in a new face, Georgia Tech junior transfer Noelle Hickey. Not only does she give us an even number of players, but she is also a hardworking, spirited addition to our team.

As exciting as having a new player is, nothing can compare to walking into the coach's office for the first time in 2010 and seeing the one and only Pete Sampras sitting on the couch. I'm fully aware that Hollywood is just around the corner but let's be serious, Pete Sampras is not just a regular celebrity sighting. Everyone knows that our head coach is his older sister, but in all my time here I've never imagined that he'd hang out at our tennis center as if it's no big deal. So yeah, having one of the greatest players of all time - a 14 time grand slam winner no doubt - around the courts is a big thrill. Needless to say I found it hard to let anything bring me down after that, even our first grueling workout of 2010 failed to affect me. All I could recall is the one and only Pete Sampras chilling in our office and jokingly giving us a hard time.

Yet another new face, a semi-celebrity one could say, is our new mental training coach Jeff Troesch. He's a Matt Dillon look-alike that probably could have played his body double in You, Me, and Dupree if he hadn't gone into sports psychology. The team spent a few hours in our first week back working with Jeff on many aspects of mental toughness, including things like channeling emotions productively and having positive self-talk on court. We also focused on having open communication with one another and our coaches. I must admit that at some point our team room could have been mistaken for an episode of Dr. Phil; however I'm confident that working with Jeff will enable us to improve at a much faster rate.

Just like the new iPhone 3GS, this year's team is new and improved in many areas. Besides the addition of several new characters to our tight knit group, other renovations are being under taken, such as the demolition of our locker room. At the beginning of break we were ungraciously kicked out of our old locker room, but no one's voicing any objection since it wasn't exactly the nicest place to hang out. We all have high expectations for that small space of ours, and I'm sure the new locker room will deliver some satisfaction. There's also a new quarterly test that the whole team is being subjected to that involves our nutritionist Becci Twombley. It's an apparatus called 'The Bod Pod'. Just picture an egg-shaped contraption in the corner of the training room that each player climbs into (claustrophobia checked at the door) and has body fat and muscle mass measured. This high tech machine is said to deliver statistics that will eventually help us perform at an optimum level, but it's still a nerve-wracking, stressful ordeal to wait your turn for 'The Mighty Egg.'

In other news, we've also begun the tradition of having regular team dinners, a ritual where we all help cook something really one-dimensional and time-efficient (yet never lacking in awesomeness). Maybe one day we'll invite Pete over, but I highly doubt we can bend the 'team members only' rule for him. Legend or not, rules are rules.

Before season matches start January 19th against Cal Poly there's one last individual tournament. The team will split up and half will head to Las Vegas (coincidently most of that half are under 21) while the other half will drive down to Palm Desert (again!).

One thing's for sure...the UCLA women's team is ready to start 2010 with a bang!

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