May 28, 2005
ATHENS, Ga. -
Baylor freshman sensation Zuzana Zemenova became the women's tennis program's first national champion when she defeated Northwestern freshman Audra Cohen in the title match at the NCAA Tournament at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex on the campus of the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga., on Saturday.
The Tennis Channel will air tape delay coverage of the singles and doubles finals on June 4 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET.
After dropping the first set on the match 6-4, Zemenova cranked her intensity up a notch and took a 6-2 second set win. Playing in just her seventh three-set match of the season, Zemenova posted a 7-5 third set victory to claim her national crown. She finished the season with a 29-5 record and is 5-2 in three-set matches.
With the win, Zemenova becomes the first unseeded NCAA champion ever and the fifth to play in the final. The other four unseeded player to reach the final -- Ania Bleszynski of Stanford in 1998, M.C. White of Florida in 1997, Keri Phebus of UCLA in 1994 and Gigi Fernandez of Clemson in 1983 -- all lost. Before Zemenova, the lowest seed to ever win the NCAA singles crown was Stanford's Laura Granville as a 9-16 alphabetical seed in 2000.
In addition, Zemenova is the sixth freshman to win the NCAA singles title. Stanford's Amber Liu was the last first-year player to capture the crown in 2003. The others are: Stanford's Laura Granville in 2000, Stanford's Lilia Osterloh in 1997, Florida's Lisa Raymond in 1992 and Beth Herr of Southern California in 1983. Prior to this year's matchup, the last all-freshman final occurred in 1997 when Osterloh defeated Florida's M.C. White.
Zemenova also became the first player from the Big 12 Conference to capture the NCAA singles crown. The Kosice, Slovakia, native is the third Big 12 player to advance to the final, following a pair of top seeds in 1995 and 1996. In 1996, Kansas' Kylie Hunt fell to Florida's Jill Craybas. In 1995, Texas' Kelly Pace lost to Keri Phebus of UCLA in the championship.
Zemenova, Baylor women's tennis' third All-American, has won 26 of her last 28 outings, including straight-set victories in 21 of those matches. Prior to Zemenova's advancement to the finals, Baylor had never even had a player reach the quarterfinals of the singles tournament. She finished the 2004-05 season with a record of 29-5, which ties for sixth most wins in Baylor history. In addition, Zemenova is 16-4 versus ranked opponents. She earned one tournament crown during her freshman season at the Ballantrae Challenger in Birmingham, Ala., in mid-October. Zemenova has also been named Big 12 Player of the Year, Big 12 Freshman of the Year, is an All-Big 12 Selection and Big 12 Champion at No. 1 position with a 9-0 mark. The newcomer was also named Southwest Region's Rookie of the Year.
"I feel great right now. I am so happy that I was able to win this tournament. This was a very tough match for me.," said Zemenova. "Coach (Joey Scrivano) helped me so much during this match, he kept telling me, `You have to play more aggressive.' I was very tired out there, but I felt like I played my best tennis of the tournament today. My strategy was to be more aggressive and to try to make her move around more. Her injury wasn't a factor in my mind."
"Give full credit to Audra Cohen, this was a match-up between two great student-athletes," said Scrivano. "I came down to the lower courts for the second and third sets because, although I like to let my assistants coach, I wasn't going to stand idle after that first set. I don't know how much strategy can be played when you're playing those kind of extremely long points, I think that the players are almost too tired for strategy. In the end, she just believed she could win the points."