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Mari Andersson Maximized Her Tennis Potential in Sweden, But She's Found Another Home at Cal

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Mari Andersson of Cal Women's Tennis

Interview with Mari Andersson of the Cal Women's Tennis team.

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It's rare nowadays to find an accomplished student-athlete that chooses an education over turning pro without much hesitation.

Such is the case with Cal women's tennis player Mari Andersson, who is one-half of the Cal women's tennis team's 2009 NCAA champion doubles team.

"I don't plan on playing tennis professionally after Cal-my career will probably be over after I'm done here," Andersson says. "I do have other plans for my future, which is why I chose Cal to get a good education."

The Korean-born Andersson was adopted by Swedish parents when she was only four months old, and she was raised in the small village of Bastad, Sweden, where the talented junior spent most of her time on the tennis courts.

"School wasn't a very high priority (in Sweden)," she says. "I went to a tennis academy when I was in high school, where I did go to class, but much of my time was concentrated on playing a lot of tennis."

The 23-year-old was highly touted during her playing days in Sweden, as she was the top amateur player in the country, winning 21 Swedish championships-10 singles, 10 doubles and one team championship-while representing Sweden in all four major grand slams at the junior level.

Cal freshman Annie Goransson, also from Sweden, attended the same tennis academy as Andersson for two years, and can vividly remember just how smooth her game was.

"(Andersson) was about three years older than I was when I first started playing at the academy, but I remember that everybody looked up to her," Goransson says. "She just plays so smooth, she moves well, her hits are clean and it just looks good. It's great to be on the same team with her again at Cal."

While she initially intended to play professionally after high school, Andersson decided it wasn't her true ambition. What she really wanted was to study and receive a quality education.

In her home country, however, going to school and playing tennis didn't mesh well together, especially after high school.

"You just couldn't do both in Sweden because they would always coincide with each other," she says. "At the higher levels, there were no evening practices-we would practice all day, but that's when classes are usually held, so it just wasn't a real possibility."

Andersson eventually made the choice to attend Cal because of the superior tennis and academic program the university offered. She made the trip to northern California by the spring of 2008, and redshirted her freshman year.

While she didn't participate in any fall tournaments back in 2008, the Swede made the most of her matches during the following spring.

Cal coach Amanda Augustus recalls Andersson's consistent ability to play well when it mattered most in big matches, as she did against Stanford last season. She won both her singles matches against ranked opponents, while also defeating Stanford's top doubles tandem in the NCAA championship final.

"Her big turning point was against Stanford last year," Augustus says. "She gets really fired up and she's a big match player. She provides that energy and spark, and I really respect her ability to rise to the occasion."

Particularly in doubles play, Andersson truly shined with her doubles partner, No. 4-ranked sophomore Jana Juricova. The duo took home the NCAA doubles championship last season, much to their suprise.

"We definitely weren't expecting to win," Juricova says, "but we improved each time we went out there and we got better. (Andersson) can get really pumped during the big matches, and it helps me a lot when I'm on the court as well."

Despite all her success and accolades, Andersson still remains humble and appreciative of all the support she has received playing at Cal.

In her final two years at Berkeley, Andersson hopes she can help the Golden Bears win back-to-back team titles, a feat that she believes this year's squad can accomplish.

"We've been so close, but I think this year will be the year for us," she said. "And next year, I hope we can just continue winning again."


Contact Jeff Carillo at [email protected]

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