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This Week in Women's Tennis

September 27, 2006 · MT Media Relations
OJEDA EXCITED ABOUT PROGRESS: Second-year head coach Alison Ojeda watched her team post a 12-9 singles mark and a 4-4 doubles record during the fall's opening tournament, the Ole Miss Fall Classic, 10 days ago. She was very pleased with her team's play and the progress they've made since the start of last year.

"I am unbelievably excited about where things are going. I thought we played awesome overall as a team," Ojeda said. "Last year we worked so hard with all of the girls on drills, keeping their intensity up and preparing for this season. It was really a grind last year, but now we're reaping the benefits of all the hard work."

Ojeda says there is still a long ways to go for her squad and that everyone has to keep their eyes set on the ultimate goal.

"We're moving in the right direction, but we're still developing as players and as a team, which is a good thing," Ojeda said. "We can still get good results while we're developing, but we cannot lose sight of what is extremely important - teaching the players how to win when they don't have their best stuff or didn't feel their best. Doing that depends on their style of play and involves teaching them how to go about using what are their strengths."

YUSUPOVA STARTS WITH VICTORIES: Sophomore Elvira Yusupova won her first three matches of the Ole Miss Fall Classic before dropping a straight-set decision in the finals, but Yusupova is very encouraged by the early results. The Ufa, Russia, native struggled last spring with not only her tennis but juggling school and workouts and conditioning after enrolling in January.

"I feel much better about myself and about my game than last year. I had never really played team tennis before and maybe I wasn't ready for that," Yusupova said. "I have more confidence and I'm getting used to everything now with it being my second semester in school."

Yusupova said this fall is another learning experience for her, working on her overall game with Ojeda.

"I want to keep improving during the fall on my overall game and make everything more consistent so I can contribute to the team's success in the spring."

SUFI MAKES BIG SPLASH: Senior transfer Hala Sufi won a pair of matches in the top flight at the Ole Miss Fall Classic before falling to 21st-ranked Natalie Frazier in the semifinals. The Tucson, Ariz., native was happy with her performance after not playing much tennis this summer before enrolling at Middle Tennessee in August.

"I'm really trying to get into tennis shape right now, playing matches. I did a lot of teaching this summer but not much playing, so I definitely felt that once I was on the court," Sufi said. "The most I played all summer was one set, plus it was pretty warm [at Ole Miss]. In the end it will be a big help to have played those matches against such good competition. I'll be better off the next time we play because of the match experience and I'll be in better shape."

Sufi had great things to say about her teammates after the opening tournament and about the upcoming season, her first as a Blue Raider and her final year in collegiate tennis.

"I thought our team as a whole did great at the tournament. We have high expectations for everyone on the team. There is a lot of talent on this squad and I think we'll do well this year. I am very excited about the season and hoping for the best for everyone."

SZABO MAKING STRIDES: After missing almost the entire fall last year, junior Claudia Szabo is happy to be on the court with the rest of her teammates. The Morwell, Australia, native has made great strides since Ojeda arrived last summer, winning 5-of-7 matches at the Ole Miss Fall Classic.

"I think last year we were a little shocked at how much training we did with Alison plus just having a new coach takes some getting used to," Szabo said. "This year we know what to expect and are working harder as a team and as individuals. We're ready for all of the hard work each and every day."

She says playing at a high level took some getting used to, understanding all of the different aspects involved with the process.

"When you come in as a freshman, you're kind of oblivious to everything. I know I was as a foreign player. But you get one year under your belt and then another and you understand the work involved in getting better and you have the match experiences. Plus all of the coaching and training helps a lot as well."

Szabo heads into this season a much different player and with more focus than ever before, with lofty goals for herself as well as her teammates.

"I want to play the best tennis I've ever played and be in the best shape of my life. There are a few little things each of us need to work on, our match strategies, and getting the match play under our belts so we perform in every match."

She says a summer of coaching in her native Australia gave her a much different look at her own game.

"I did a lot of coaching this summer and I really think it helped my game. I look at my technique more than I did before I started coaching and I assess my game and the opponent's weaknesses more than before."

NEXT UP: The Blue Raiders continue training before taking part in the ITA Southeast Regionals, October 12-15, in Chapel Hill, N.C.

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