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Gerri Viant’s 2015-2016 Women’s Predictions
October 8, 2015
The upcoming women’s platform tennis season promises to be one of the most interesting in recent history. Between the many talented teams vying for the top spots and the impending arrival of new babies, the highest rankings are up for grabs.
Team to Beat
Three out of the top 10 individual players are pregnant and due before December 2015. Two-time national champion Viki Stoklosova will be back on tour after the arrival of her daughter Suvi in July, and will once again team up with three-time national champion Ana Brzova. They will be the team to beat.
Brzova’s 2015 national champion partner Liz Cruz, as well as Roxy Enica, are both expecting and will miss the first half of the season. Cruz’s regular partner Marcela Rodezno became a mother in August and, while she's in the Patterson draw, is also expected to miss some time early in the season. The second-half plans of all three of these players will make things very interesting as we head into Nationals.
Could this be the year for Cynthia Dardis and Amy Shay to make their move and win the big title? Playing together for their 13th straight year, we know that they – along with Liz Jaffe and Lisa Rudloff, the 2011 and 2012 national finalists – have exceptional court savvy, experience and desire.
More offensive shot-making is what will help both teams hold off the surge of newer players entering the game. I’d put Bobo Delaney and Tonia Mangan in this same category.
Combining Mary Doten’s experience of six national titles with Chelsea Nusslock’s youth makes the 2013 and 2015 national finalists a team you can never count out. They are always a threat, and maybe by adding a few more national ranking tournaments to their season they will have the confidence to go all the way at Nationals.
Jane McNitt and Wendy Shpiz had a great 2014-2015 season, handing top seeds Brzova-Stoklosova their only loss in a NRT, but they had a slightly disappointing Nationals. I look for them to have put some work in on tightening up their net positioning and to start the season strongly.
Ania Kazakevich and Heather Prop held match point in the third-set tiebreak against national champions Brzova-Cruz, showing they have the nerve and the game. This year, playing their second season together, I really like their chances to break through and make some finals appearances.
On the Rise
There are three other teams that played their first season together last year and for various reasons didn’t meet their full potential. One-time national champion (2005) Kerry Delmonico and her partner Lauren Gebbia both have the ability to create offense off of either side of the backcourt and are not afraid to take chances at any time in the match.
National finalist (2014) Sue Tarzian and partner Lauren Mandell never really got going last season. Sue is one of the hardest-working players on tour and, coupled with Lauren’s lights-out backhand, they will give it another go this year.
Finally, 2014 finalist Kerri Flynn and rookie Myrthe Molenveld finished 11th at the Nationals with Myrthe gaining more and more experience with every match. This year it wouldn’t surprise me to see any of these teams cause major upsets.
More Upset Potential
I like the way the team of Karin Kochis and Jaclyn Williamson play, and they made an impression on the tour last year. If they can string some wins back-to-back, it should give them the confidence they need to take their games deeper into the draws this year.
Hallie Bodman and Liz Hayward, always dangerous in a draw, swing freely and smile their way through matches regardless of the score. No one wants to see them early – and the same could be said for Jessica Guyaux and Lynn Schneebeck, another dangerous team that could take out anybody.
Dangerous New Pairings
High on my radar will be the new team of Gabi Niculescu and Martina Ondrejkova. They teamed up for the Philly Open last year and I liked what I saw in their quarter-final win over Roxy Enica and Liz Cruz. They both play big-bang paddle, are highly talented, completely immersed in the game, and eager to learn. I see this team as a contender once they settle down and start to see the pieces of the game as a whole.
Another new team that I’ll be following is 2005 national champion Aila Main teaming up with Annika Van Starrenburg. It was nice to see Aila finish in the semi-finals in last spring’s Nationals. This team has some firepower.
I’m sure there are more teams that will come through this season and new combinations that have not yet been announced. The season kicks off Saturday with the first tournament at The Patterson Club in Connecticut, and I’m looking forward to following what is probably the strongest depth of players the women’s tour has seen.