With tournament play just getting underway for the Michigan women’s tennis team this past weekend at the Wolverine Invitational, a new and improved work ethic was brought to the court to start the season. After a long summer of individualized training, the team seems excited to make some breakthroughs this year and is certainly ready to redeem itself after a loss to No. 7 UCLA in last spring’s NCAA Sweet 16.
Junior Emina Bektas and senior Brooke Bolender trained and competed both at home and around the country this summer before transitioning back to the team environment.
Bektas came onto Michigan’s tennis radar early in her freshman year when she was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and earned All-America honors in singles while cruising to a 33-10 record in doubles. As a sophomore, she was a two-time Big Ten Athlete of the Week and earned a berth in both the NCAA singles and doubles championships. Now, as an upperclassman, Bektas finds herself in a leadership position and is ready to make some strides in her game, both physically and mentally. She went 2-1 last weekend in singles in the Wolverine Invitational, with a key win over Tulane’s No. 23 Klara Vyskocilova.
“This summer was more productive as a whole,” Bektas said. “After freshman year, I took a lot of time off and felt slower and a little more burnt out, but this year has been easier. I’m excited to see what I can do.”
Most of Bektas’s summer was spent with Bolender, as the two traveled and followed a proper training regime of lifting three times a week, playing two hours of tennis a day and running when there was time in between. While back in their respective hometowns, Bektas and Bolender were able to have more freedom with their individual coaches and even had the chance to play in tournaments against some Big Ten rivals.
“Competition-wise, this summer was really good for me,” Bektas said. “I wasn’t expecting much, but Brooke and I took the doubles title at the Women’s Hospital Classic in (Evansville, Ind.) in July, and I took the singles title as well. I felt like things were starting to pick up, which made me really want to get back to the team and keep going with the momentum.”
Bolender is definitely one to keep an eye on this season as well. The Florida native was the first Michigan freshman to win 30 matches in a season — setting a new record with 35 singles wins — earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year as well as All-Big Ten. Her sophomore year, she was named to the All-Big Ten team and began to play with Bektas, advancing to the semifinals at the USTA/ITA Midwest Regional tournament. As a junior, she was voted captain, had an extraordinary 7-0 win over Ohio State to seal the Wolverines’ fourth straight Big Ten championship and, along with Bektas, was the nation’s fourth-ranked doubles pairing. She went 3-1 at the Wolverine Invitational last weekend.
“The back-to-school transition has been a little tricky for me personally,” Bolender said. “I’m taking my elementary education classes in the morning, which means I’m sometimes left to practice on my own. As a whole, though, everyone is coming in with high expectations, and the work ethic is really solid.”
As for her summer competition, Bolender said, “I was a little disappointed with the singles outcomes in most of my individual tournaments back home in Florida, but Emina and I played really well together in Evansville, and it was great to compete outside of our dual matches. I can’t complain about that. There was even good and bad this past weekend, but that just shows what I need to work on. I know I’ll work through the struggles and get better this year.”
Next up, the Wolverines are set to compete inthe Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championships in California from Sept. 28-Oct. 6.