With a determination to succeed and form a strong partnership, doubles partners Lenka Antonijevic and Yuliya Kizelbasheva have qualified for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Division I Women’s Super Regionals — and they are ready to win.
The ITA Super Regionals for the Midwest takes place on Oct. 22-26 at Ohio State University. There, Antonijevic and Kizelbasheva will take on some of the top doubles competition in the region.
The two DePaul women’s tennis players qualified on Saturday, Sept. 25 by making it to the quarterfinals at the ITA Midwest Regionals. The Blue Demons secured their spot in the Super Regionals after a hard-fought battle against the University of Michigan’s doubles duo on Saturday.
Antonijevic and Kizelbasheva were losing to the Wolverines at match point but did not give up and came back to win the game.
“We decided before the match started that we were going to stick to our plan and that we were not going to be scared,” Antonijevic said. “We had nothing to lose so the moment we stepped on the court we were full of energy and we were following our plan.”
That win advanced them to the quarterfinals on Sept. 26 and qualified them for the Super Regionals. While Antonijevic and Kizelbasheva fell to the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Sunday, the weekend was still a success for the duo.
Antonijevic and Kizelbasheva have been doubles partners since the fall of 2019. In their first season together, the duo claimed victories in four-straight matches at the ITA All-American Championships before falling to No. 2 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the Round of 16.
After going 6-4 in doubles competition together last season, Antonijevic and Kizelbasheva swept their opponents at the Redbird Invite on Sept. 17-19 to win their first doubles title of the season.
And after being long-time doubles partners, the two have developed a deep friendship and understanding of each other on and off the tennis court.
“We’re not just doubles partners, we’re also friends,” Kizelbasheva said. “So, it’s pretty easy for us to express what we feel is going on in our mind, we can always tell when something is not going well.”
That communication and trust Antonijevic and Kizelbasheva have in each other will be important in the next few weeks as competition heats up and the Super Regionals approaches.
The team competed in the Eagle Invitational on Oct. 1-3, where Antonijevic and Kizelbasheva defeated Oakland University 7-5 on day one. The Blue Demons will travel to the University of Washington for the Husky Invitational next weekend.
Head coach Maris Arce believes both invitationals will provide important chances for the team to prepare for what’s to come.
“We’re going to play at the University of Washington and play some of the top teams in the country,” Arce said. “So, that is just a huge opportunity to work for Super Regionals too because we’re going to have to be disciplined and do all the things that we’re talking about to be successful there.”
While Antonijevic and Kizelbasheva have already qualified for the Super Regionals, they’re not planning to sit back and relax for the next month. The duo intends to use these next few weeks as preparation, and they know what they need to do.
“Still keep doing everything that we were doing so far,” Antonijevic said. “Because the commitment that we put in, and playing a lot of matches, which gives us confidence, and just practicing is what prepares us for those matches.”