Clemson's Koroleva upsets Cal's Susanyi to earn trip to national quarterfinals
URBANA, Ill. -- Clemson sophomore Yana Koroleva kept her national championship hopes alive with a 7-5, 7-6(6) win against No. 5-seeded Zsofi Susanyi of California in the Round of 16 at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex. Koroleva, ranked 16th in the nation, will take on defending-champion Nicole Gibbs of Stanford in the quarterfinals of the 2013 Women’s Tennis Singles Championship at 1 p.m. ET Saturday.
Koroleva became just the fourth player in Clemson history to advance to the quarterfinals of the singles championship, joining Gigi Fernandez (1983), Sophie Woorons (1996) and Julie Coin (2004, 2005).
“She definitely fits in that category,” Clemson head coach Nancy Harris said. “No question she joins a very elite class of college players. Hopefully she can continue [her run].”
Koroleva earned the highest-ranked victory of her career with the decision against Susanyi.
Susanyi made very few errors and made Koroleva keep balls in play and keep rallies alive. Koroleva has more of a power baseline game, but has mixed it up as the matches have gone on.
“I had to put a lot of balls in play,” Koroleva said. “Not just [Friday], but every match so far. I just kept patient. I knew she wouldn’t go away.”
"She was very focused and knew what she wanted to do. She was very deliberate," Harris said. "[Susanyi] never went away and kept fighting. Yana [Koroleva] played with such courage. She was very uncomfortable at times.”
The Tiger sophomore has won 12 consecutive matches overall, with 10 of those coming against top-100 players and four in the top 25. She improved to 19-6 against ranked players on the season, but knows her biggest challenge still lies ahead of her in Gibbs, the 2012 singles champion. Gibbs defeated Koroleva in February 6-2, 6-2.
“She’s the defending champion of this tournament,” Koroleva said. “I have accomplished a lot already, so I have nothing to lose. I just need to go out there and play my best and we’ll see what happens.”
Koroleva spent much of the match in the driver’s seat, taking an early break advantage in the first set and leading 4-2 midway through. While serving ahead 4-3, Susanyi got the break she needed to get back on serve. However, Koroleva responded with a break of her own and set up her serve for the set. Susanyi again broke, but Koroleva also responded to take a 6-5 lead. This time, she was able to close out the set 7-5.
The second set went much the same, with Koroleva breaking the first game and holding before Susanyi won three in a row to take a 3-2 lead. With the match tied at four, Koroleva broke to go up 5-4 and serve for the match. Neither player could hold serve the next three games, sending the second set to a tiebreaker.
Trailing 5-4 in the breaker, Koroleva took matters into her own hands and became the aggressor. Back-to-back winners set up her first match point at 6-5, but she hit a forehand long to knot the match once again.
The next point was one that changed the course of the match. After a long rally, Susanyi came to the net and put a drop shot on the left side. Koroleva came streaking in and lunged to her backhand, returning the ball from an improbable angle for the winner.
“That’s the stuff you see at Wimbledon,” Harris said. “That’s a big time play. [Susanyi] really had [Koroleva’s] back against the wall. She ran out of literally nowhere. I told her I’ve never seen her move so quickly. It was just phenomenal.”
Again with match point, Koroleva charged and hammered a forehand winner to clinch the match.