By Laurean Love
Senior Diana Nakic is representing Baylor at the biggest collegiate tennis event of the fall, the USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships in Flushing, N.Y.
“Obviously we are really excited for Diana for earning a spot in the national indoor event,” said head coach Joey Scrivano. “National indoor is one of our collegiate grand slams and one of the most prestigious events in college tennis. Any time a player can earn a spot to play in that event, they have done something special.”
Nakic, entering nationals ranked 28th, came from behind to beat UCLA freshman Robin Anderson on Thursday, Nakic won 1-6, 6-2, 6-2. Andersen is ranked second in the preseason newcomer rankings released by the ITA.
Nakic, a Velenje, Slovenia, native, enters the championship on a six-match winning streak.
Nakic won three titles last season: the 2011 All-NCAA Tournament Team, all-Big 12 singles honors and was named the Big 12 Championship Most Outstanding Player.
“I have to tip my hat to Diana and the effort and focus she has put into her training, and to our coaching staff who has just done a tremendous job of developing her tools,” Scrivano said.
According to NCAA rules, she is not eligible to play after her senior year is complete, but she hopes to play professionally one day.
Nakic said if she is not able to play professionally she would probably go home and find a job somewhere in Europe.
“Diana is an excellent student as well as tennis player,” said Scrivano. “She is doing tremendously well with her studies. Whatever Diana chooses to put her mind to, she is going to do very well. She gets what it takes to be successful. She understands that you have to put in a lot of sacrifice and a lot of effort to become great at something. Whatever she decides to do, she will be very good at it.”
Diana won the ITA Regional, one of 12 regionals held around the country during October. The singles and doubles champions from each tournament qualify for the 2011 USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships at the indoor facilities at the STA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing.
Nakic is the fourth Baylor player since 2005 to win the ITA Regional title, joining Zuzana Zemenova (2005), Lenka Broosova (2007) and Sona Novakova (2010) as regional champs under Scrivano.
She overpowered SMU’s Marta Lesniak, ranked ninth, in the semifinals at regionals and Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar, ranked 24th, in the finals with each victory in straight sets.
Nakic is 13-3 on the season, having earned a semifinal berth in the HEB Baylor Invitational and qualified into the main draw of the ITA/Riviera All-American in her two tournaments prior to the regional.
Nakic was the third-ranked senior at the start of the season. She had a 30-win season in her first year in a Baylor uniform.
“She has had a tremendous amount of improvement since her transfer,” Scrivano said. “When Diana came to Baylor, she relied on her competitiveness and her will to win matches, and since joining our team she has developed the tools necessary to compete at the highest level. You can see that in her results over the past year. She is beating a higher level of players with time. She is getting bigger wins now than she did when she was at Georgia State her first two years.”
After transferring from Georgia State, Nakic made an immediate impact going a perfect 11-0 in conference and 17-0 overall at the No. 3 spot in the Baylor lineup.
Nakic said her relationship with the team at Baylor is really good and that they behave like a family. She said it helps that everyone is trying to achieve the same goal.
“At Georgia State it was more about the team. We got along really well, but their goals were different than mine,” said Nakic. “I was thinking more about tennis, about how to improve my game and play on a higher level. Baylor is a great opportunity to improve my game.”
Nakic will be competing at nationals Thursday through Sunday, depending on her success.
Nakic is majoring in international business.
On Friday, Nakic will face North Carolina’s Lauren McHale in the round of 16. McHale was a first-round winner over Alabama’s No. 27 Mary Anne MacFarlane, 6-2, 7-5.