Court Coverage With Nina Pantic

July 5, 2011

Summer has arrived and the UCLA women's tennis team is officially on an extended holiday. Half the team has graduated and the rest are waiting until things pick up again for what I'm sure will be another successful season beginning in late September. Some unlucky few have summer school to attend, while others get complete freedom to sleep in, lie on the beach all day, and watch TV all night...or play tennis (depending on the mood). But summer's arrival means one important detail...NCAA's are over. The one goal we put all of our sweat and hard work into since our loss at NCAA's in 2010 has come and gone. But this time around there is no feeling of regret're looking at a Final Four team! Even though we didn't come home from Stanford with a championship ring, we still brought the program back to the top of college tennis with wins over Virginia and Duke. Duke was this year's highlight win since it avenged an upset loss to the Blue Devils in the Sweet Sixteen last year.

While our tennis goals ended a few weeks ago, the most recent milestone we passed through was that of graduation. Commencement at UCLA is a tremendous occasion and my teammates and I got to celebrate it three separate times; the main commencement ceremony for the entire 2011 class, the individual department ceremony, and the student-athlete reception. This year's graduating class of me, Maya Johansson, Noelle Hickey, Amit Inbar, and Matt Brooklyn all wore our cap and gowns with pride amidst the 4,000 other graduating students. Andrea Remynse also graduated, but left early to head back to Michigan in order to prepare for her law school adventures at Michigan State.

The UCLA Athletic Department provided every student-athlete with a medal to accentuate their outfit and held, in my opinion, the best graduation ceremony of the weekend. So thank you UCLA Athletics! Of all the receptions and banquets I've been to over my years here, this was my favorite one. That is really saying something, as there have been a lot of events over my years here, including but not limited to: freshman orientation, compliance meetings, Wooden Academy, BAC meetings, end-of-the-year team banquets, welcome BBQ's, and scholar-athlete banquets. Ric Coy, the ringleader of nearly all athletic receptions, made the graduation ceremony unforgettable with a photo gallery presentation of every graduating athlete's baby pictures. One of the lasting lessons Ric has taught, besides making sure we always go to class and never bring food into the learning center, is that not all babies are cute. Soccer's Kevin Weiner was an absolutely hilarious student-athlete speaker, delivering one of the best speeches I've ever heard at UCLA and definitely the best of the graduation weekend (besting Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams and my English Department guest speaker ex-hobbit Samwise Gamgee/Sean Astin). Kevin proved that UCLA student-athletes have many, many talents (both hidden and visible) to share with the world.

One person who I have left out during my time writing this blog has been Tennis Operations Director Grant Chen, who helps with both the men's and the women's programs here at UCLA. His job encounters never-ending difficulties, as he's not only the director but also our number one contact for all problems tennis-related. Even though most of us are well past our teenage years, we still have a tendency to act like incompetent children and Grant is always there to help us in our time of need, be it getting a last minute racquet stung, arranging a ride to the airport, or helping with paperwork we simply cannot do ourselves. Grant manages it all from sunrise to sunset with an energetic enthusiasm and a huge smile on his face, and his positivity is an even more amazing feat considering that we are usually tired, agitated, and impatient when we come rushing to him needing something. No one I've ever met has the genuine energy that Grant has for tennis and for life, and his dedication to UCLA, alongside managers Becky Duesler, Amanda Lin, Kiki Dickerson and everyone else involved with UCLA tennis, has made it possible for the program to maintain its distinguished reputation.

This year's team has set the bar high, and with managers and players graduating and moving on (assuming we all find our way after graduation), we expect only better from next year's team. I consider this court covered. Go Bruins!

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