May 28, 2010

By Andy Johnston
Special to NCAA.com

ATHENS, Ga. - Jana Juricova received a little inside information about Irene Rehberger, her opponent in the second round of the NCAA Division I women's singles tournament.

Juricova, a sophomore at California, said doubles partner Mari Andersson practiced with Rehberger earlier this week and passed on that she hit a heavy ball and moved well on the court.

The tidbit helped as the second-seeded Juricova rolled past South Florida's Rehberger 6-2, 6-1 and into the Sweet 16. Juricova will play 13th-seeded Maria Mosolova of Northwestern, who defeated Katrina Tsang 6-0, 7-6 (4) in the second round.

"I feel pretty good about how I played," Juricova said. "The beginning was pretty tough, and I think it was important that I pushed through the beginning. I got a lead, so that it made it easier for me. I'm real satisfied that I didn't let it go too long. I'm pretty happy it about it."

Especially because Juricova and Andersson are the defending champions of the doubles tournament, which began Thursday. The pair played in a late afternoon match on Thursday and advanced to the round of 28 on Friday.

Juricova said she felt fresh because she had a day off after California lost to Notre Dame in the Sweet 16 of the team tournament last Thursday. She then began practicing for the singles, opening with a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Vanderbilt's Catherine Newman on Wednesday.

She's 42-6 this season, surpassing the 39 victories from her freshman season, when Juricova struggled with her fitness, California coach Amanda Augustus said.

"Last year, we played right up to the team championship (losing to Duke in the final) and after that, she just ran out off gas," Augustus said. "She worked all summer and fall on that. We worked on getting her to the net more. She's always had great ground strokes, but a lot of times she'd keep people in the point because she wouldn't finish them off. She's trying to come in more now and finish her points at the net."

She had no problem with that against Rehberger, who couldn't handle Juricova's big serve and power. Juricova is listed at 5-foot-11 and Rehberger is 5-5.

The final three points were indicative of the entire match. Juricova was hitting so hard that Rehberger could barely get her racket on the ball. She was long on two straight points and then Juricova finished her off with a winner.

"She's really excited to be here and trying to take it match by match," Augustus said. "Last year, she didn't do as well in the singles tournament as she wanted, so I think she worked really hard to get fit and some of the things in her game she needed to improve, like her serve."

Juricova, who is from Piestany, Slovakia, said she fits right in on California's diverse campus. She visited the United States before she signed, but had only seen Florida and California. She's excited to be reunited this week with fellow Slovakian Lenka Broosova, Baylor's No. 1 singles player who is from Banska Bystrica and who is playing in the singles and doubles tournament.

"We used to hit together a lot in Slovakia," Juricova said. "We're good friends. I miss her."

-30-