Court Coverage with Nina Pantic

Feb. 20, 2010

I'm proud to say that the Bruin women's tennis team has returned to the top 10 after a very successful showing recently at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Madison, Wisconsin. After jumping from No. 12 to No. 4 in the national rankings, we're feeling very confident heading into the more competitive part of the season.

The ITA National Team Indoors is held every year at an impressive facility on the grounds of the University of Wisconsin. And even though the tournament is indoors, that doesn't stop us from suffering during the cold and snowy conditions that, as Californians, we're not used to. Another disadvantage is that most of us have scarcely seen indoor tennis courts let alone grown up on them like most players from the Midwest and East Coast. And while we were fortunate to fit in a couple hundred sprints at the indoor volleyball courts on campus due to persistent rain over the past few weeks, it was still hard to prepare for indoor tennis.

Upon our arrival in Madison we bundled up in huge, fluffy blue winter jackets. These jackets aren't your typical winter jackets - they're nearly full-body length and blue from top to bottom - so we emerged from the Madison airport looking like a troupe of over-sized blueberries. Though we successfully brought the correct snow gear, some still managed to fail at using the hotel thermostats. Our first night in Madison resulted in an unforeseen technical error, as one player assumed that turning the heater up to 90 degrees would make the room more comfortable. Needless to say she ruined her fellow teammate's night!

While we made it easily to Madison without any snow-related hindrances, our men's team had its flight delayed multiple times and ended up on a red-eye that barely made it to Virginia in time for the match.

Traveling as a team means lots of baggage, and one especially important bag is the one that carries our equipment and balls. Freshmen get the honor of dragging this heavy, awkward luggage around all week and it's a chore that continues throughout the year. But of course our girls carry it with pride.

Since we had to get acclimated to indoor tennis, we spent the first two days practicing, practicing, and practicing. It seemed liked all we did was eat, sleep and train. And all we ate were lots and lots of bagels. The first day we were actually excited about finding a bagel shop with 40 cent bagels. However I can tell you now that the sight of a bagel is extremely nauseating.

Our first match in Madison was against sixth-ranked Miami and I'd say things went very smoothly for us. We won the doubles point and senior Yasmin Schnack clinched our first victory of the year against a top 10 team. The unconventional thing about this tournament is that each dual match only uses three courts. So once doubles is over, our singles players have to wait for a court to open before going on. This format takes a lot of patience and can change the dynamic of an entire match. The most challenging part comes when you end up starting some of the singles matches at 8:00 p.m. for a match that started at 3:30. Some days you end up eating dinner at 11:00 p.m., which is way past half our player's usual bedtimes (obviously the older half).

Unfortunately, we lost 4-3 in the quarterfinals to No. 3 Cal, but the loss only motivated us to keep working harder. It showed how close we are to top-ranked teams, and how capable we are of beating any team in the nation. This showed the next day, as we successfully bounced back with a 4-1 win over No. 4 Florida. Junior Maya Johansson finished our week at the Indoors by clinching the match at court No. 5.

The coaches were in a very giving mood after such a successful showing and treated us all to a trip to IHop. It's shocking how quickly a group of tennis players can transform into ravenous animals at the sight of fresh food. Upon entering the restaurant we devoured pancake after pancake, as well as multiple helpings of toast, eggs, and bacon (clearly the week-long bagel and power bar diet didn't satisfy us very well). Right after the celebratory meal, the coaches gave us five minutes to play in the snow. We split into teams and Carling Seguso and I destroyed the opposition in a very one-sided snowball fight. What began initially as a snowball fight actually turned into more of a tackling extravaganza that should earn us honorary spots on the football team.

So with the Indoors behind us, we're back in LA and focused on hosting No. 11 Stanford this Friday at 1:30 p.m. and No. 3 Cal on Saturday at noon. We'd love for everyone to come out and support the team in one of our biggest home weekends of the season. GO BRUINS!

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