It has been a victorious fall season for Ole Miss Tennis with both the men’s and women’s team earning wins, accolades and praise left and right.
For the men, the peak moment of the fall thus far came last week. Senior Zvonimir Babic and junior Filip Kraljevic qualified for the Oracle/ITA Fall National Championships, which is currently taking place in Indian Wells, California.
“This is an event that they obviously had as a goal to get the opportunity to play but I know that they are not satisfied just to make it there,” men’s head coach Toby Hansson said. “They are there to make a serious run at the title. I know the whole team will follow and cheer for the guys from Oxford as they compete out west.”
To qualify, the dynamic duo earned their place through the intense trial of the 5-round ITA Southern Regional Championships.
Babic and Kraljevic handled the early rounds in the LSU-hosted regionals with ease, but many doubted that the talented Rebels could top the highly touted, seventh-ranked Niclas Braun and Trevor Foshey of Mississippi State. The pair shed any doubt on their way to a 6-4, 6-4 statement win over the top-seeded Bulldogs.
“We are feeling great on the court; our chemistry is incredible and from now forward we can only thrive and be even better,” Babic said about the decisive victory. “We are planning to enjoy our time and play good tennis again in Indian Wells.”
The dominant play of Babic and Kraljevic is impressive on its own, but the feat is even more incredible for Ole Miss Tennis when compared to the similar level of play put forth by the women’s team.
While Babic and Kraljevic were wreaking havoc in Lousiana, seniors Arianne Hartono and Natalie Suk and freshman Sabina Machalova were making moves of their own in Auburn, Alabama.
Hartono, playing for both the singles and doubles titles, did not drop a singles set the entire tournament on the way to her dominant ITA Southern Regional Singles title. The All-American also helped lead her top-ranked, No. 6 ranked doubles pair with partner Alexa Bortles to an all Ole Miss showdown in the finals with Suk and Machalova.
Suk and Machalova won the Rebels-only doubles final, securing the pair’s first ever title together. The incredible showing from the Ole Miss squad also marked the first time in 20 years that the Rebels women’s team have won both singles and doubles titles at the ITA Fall Regionals.
The show-stopping play of Hartono, Suk and Machalova was good enough for all three to qualify for the Oracle/ITA Fall National Championships and join Babic and Kraljevic in California.
“It’s very exciting to have four players involved in the first National Fall Championships,” women’s head coach Mark Beyers said. “It’s a great chance for our girls to measure themselves against the very best in the country and finish the fall season on a high note.”
The hunt for the national title began this week and will conclude with the finals on Sunday. Nationals will see an increase in the talent pool that the Rebels will be forced to reckon with, but the five Ole Miss representatives have shown an ability to play with and stand out from the very best.