URBANA, IL - Clemson Sophomore Yana Koroleva kept her National Championship hopes alive with a 7-5, 7-6(6) win over No. 5 Zsofi Susanyi of California in the Round of 16 at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex in Urbana, IL. 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 1:00 pm Saturday.
Koroleva becomes just the fourth player in Clemson history to advance to the quarterfinals of the Singles Championships, joining Gigi Fernandez (1983), Sophie Woorons (1996), and Julie Coin (2004, 2005).
“She definitely fits in that category,” said Head Coach Nancy Harris. “No question she joins a very elite class of college players, and she belongs in that class. Hopefully she can continue.”
Koroleva earned the highest-ranked victory of her career with the decision over fifth-ranked Susanyi. It topped her 6-2, 6-0 victory over No. 6 Lauren Herring of Georgia last Friday (Herring also advanced to the quarterfinals on the other side of the bracket).
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,” said Koroleva. “Not just today, but every match so far. I just kept patient. I knew she wouldn’t go away.”
“She played great. It was just super stuff, and not an easy match,” said Harris of her top player. “She was very focused, and knew what she wanted to do. She was very deliberate. This player today (Susanyi) never went away and kept fighting. Yana played with such courage. She was very uncomfortable at times.”
The Tiger sophomore has won 12 straight matches overall, with ten 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 champion. Gibbs defeated Koroleva in February, 6-2, 6-2 in a dual match in Gainesville, FL.
“She’s the defending champion of this tournament,” said Koroleva. “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 feisty Bear, 7-5.
The second set went much the same, with Koroleva breaking the first game and holding before Susanyi won three straight to ake a 3-2 lead. With the match tied at 4-4, 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 at 6-6.
The next point was one that truly changed the course of the match. After a long rally, Susanyi came to the net and put a beautiful drop shot on the left side. Koroleva came streaking in and lunged to her backhand, hitting an impossible angle on the winner.
“That’s the stuff you see at Wimbledon,” said Harris. “That’s a big time play. She (Susanyi) really had Yana’s back against the wall. She ran out of literally nowhere - I told her I’ve never seen her move so quickly - and she ripped the backhand angle winner. It was just phenomenal.”
Again with match point, Koroleva charged and hammered a forehand winner to clinch the match.
Koroleva is now 28-7 on the season and will try to join Coin and Fernandez in the group of Clemson tennis players to reach the semifinals.
Rd. of 64: #40 Beatrice Gumulya (CU) def. Dominique Harmath (RICE), 6-3, 7-5
Rd. of 64: #16 Yana Koroleva (CU) def. #23 Jenny Jullien (SMC), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
Rd. of 64: #76 Cindy Chala (VCU) def. #33 Liz Jeukeng (CU), 6-0, 5-7, 7-6(2)
Rd. of 32: #7 Gina Suarez-Malaguti (UNC) def. #40 Beatrice Gumulya (CU), 2-6, 6-0, 6-2
Rd. of 32: #16 Yana Koroleva (CU) def. #49 Zoe De Bruycker (UNC), 3-6, 6-2, 6-2
Rd. of 16: #16 Yana Koroleva (CU) def. #5 Zsofi Susanyi (CAL), 7-5, 7-6(6)
Quarterfinals (Sat.): #16 Yana Koroleva (CU) v. #13 Nicole Gibbs (STAN)