Into the Swing of Things

Drive to Succeed Has Made Freshman Jana Juricova Into Cal's No. 1

Photo: Freshman Jana Juricova decided to put off the professional tour in favor of the team atmosphere at Cal. She has risen to the No. 8 singles ranking in her first season.
Anna Vignet/File
Freshman Jana Juricova decided to put off the professional tour in favor of the team atmosphere at Cal. She has risen to the No. 8 singles ranking in her first season.

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After the 2008 season, the Cal women's tennis team lost three top players-its No. 1, No. 3 and No. 5 positions. People wondered how the Bears were going to maintain their high ranking.

And that's where No. 8 freshman Jana Juricova comes in.

Because Juricova, who comes from a small city called Piestany in the Slovak Republic, decided to journey to America and join the Cal program, the No. 8 Bears have risen above and beyond many people's expectations, including those of coach Amanda Augustus.

"From our first few e-mails and conversations, I could tell right away that she was on top of things, and knew how to put the work in to do what she needed to do," says Augustus. "Her commitment to tennis and academics at a high level was important. I am always looking for someone that will do well in school and adjust to do well in tennis."

However, little did she know just how much this freshman would serve as a role model for the Bears.

"Jana is a really great tennis player," says Augustus. "She's also a near 4.0 student and a really a good example for everyone on the team of how to have a good balance."

This balance between schoolwork and tennis may be challenging to some, but with Juricova's resilience and drive to do well, Cal seemed to be the most suitable university for her to attend.

"I wanted to go to a good school academically," says Juricova. "I was trying to find out where I could get in and get a scholarship. Cal is a great school academically and the tennis team is really good too. I really wanted to implement tennis in addition to an education."

Tennis has always been an important component of Juricova's life.

"I come from a city of about 35,000 people, but tennis is very popular there," says Juricova. "One friend of my mother said there is a tennis camp, and my parents wanted me to do a sport, so I tried tennis and played with my brother. My parents said ever since I always wanted to go hit more. I was bothering them all the time."

Perhaps Juricova's success and passion in tennis and academics is due to what Augustus calls her best quality.

"She is very stubborn," says Augustus. "It really helps her on the court and in the classroom because she is going to sit down and study until she gets it right so she can get an 'A.' On the court, she will be out there playing, and if a girl hits a couple good shots, she'll be like 'no' and change her strategy so she can win the match.

"I remember early on when she got here, she was asking a lot about the top players in college tennis and how it works, and what she would need to do to put herself in a position like that. You couldn't ask for a better freshman."

Without delay, Juricova proved her worth by posting a team-best 17-2 singles record in the fall of 2008. She won the Saint Mary's Invitational singles title and the ASU Thunderbird Invitational singles title and won the doubles championship with senior Rachael Dillon at the Saint Mary's Invitational as well.

Then, when sophomore Marina Cossou-who began the spring season as Cal's No. 1 singles player-went down with an injury right before the beginning of Pac-10 play in February, Juricova seized the opportunity to shine. The freshman took over the No. 1 spot and has posted an 11-4 record in singles dual meets since then.

In only one year at Cal, Juricova has become the top-ranked player on the team.

"It is a lot of effort I have to put in, but what I receive back is really great," says Juricova. "I am trying to do everything I can to even get a little higher. As long as you still keep fighting, there is always a chance, especially in tennis."

However, there is more to Juricova than her drive for personal success. While she has the skill set to be a powerhouse on her own, she did not want to miss out on the benefits of being a team member.

"She is a great team player," says Augustus. "If she wanted to just do things for herself, she would have gone on the tour and been playing for herself, but she really wanted to be part of a team concept. That is something she is really good at."

While Juricova's older brother had to give up tennis due to a knee injury, Jana feels fortunate to be able to live her dream.

"My parents are proud and try to catch up in the newspapers and online, so it's really cool," she says.

Because she is only a freshman, Juricova has so much to look forward to in the future.

"It is exciting to think Jana is only a freshman," says Augustus. "She is only starting with what she can do. There is a lot of stuff she can work on, and she knows that. It is great that we are going to have her here for three more years."


Contact Lauren Bachelis at [email protected]

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