Courter, Pintusava impress at No. 2 doubles

Julia Courter and Natallia Pintusava have a 17-4 record this season.

Minnesotas Julia Courter and Natallia Pintusava play against Illinois on Friday afternoon at the Baseline Tennis Center.

Lisa Persson

Minnesota’s Julia Courter and Natallia Pintusava play against Illinois on Friday afternoon at the Baseline Tennis Center.

by Jace Frederick

A pair of constant smiles, lots of laughs and a bunch of victories.

That’s been the story of the season for senior Natallia Pintusava and junior Julia Courter on the doubles court.

“We’re always laughing and smiling,” Courter said. “I think overall our attitudes and our communication have been a key thing this year, and that’s what led to our success.”

It’s easy to grin and giggle when success comes so seamlessly. Courter and Pintusava have amassed a 17-4 record this season, including a 7-2 mark in the Big Ten.

Both players said on-court communication has keyed the season-long success. The interaction between partners is also crucial for consistent results, Courter said.

“You have to trust your partners,” she said. “You have to know where they’re going with the ball.”

Pintusava said she and Courter play with a similar style, which has created chemistry on the court.

“We do similar things, and I can predict what her next step is, so I can adjust accordingly,” she said.

This season, both players have also experienced success in singles play. But Pintusava said she thinks the two are better together because of the way they motivate each other.

When Pintusava has been down this season, Courter has picked her up. When Courter has been down, Pintusava has provided the same lift.

“Sometimes I come to practice and I’m down and Julia is like, ‘Hey, come on. We can do it,’” Pintusava said. “Then I’m just following her, and it comes naturally … and we’re together on the same wave.”

Pintusava and Courter were paired together during the 2011-12 season, but the combo went 1-1 that year and didn’t play together again after those two matches.

“It didn’t really work out very well,” Pintusava said, adding that she and Courter have since developed as players.

Pintusava credited head coach Chuck Merzbacher for trusting his intuition in putting the two back together this season to form what she called a “great combination.”

“They do all the things that you want to do well in doubles,” Merzbacher said. “They’re tough to beat.”

The Gophers, however, need to win two out of three doubles matches to steal the doubles point — something the team has struggled to do lately.

Merzbacher said he has to be able to count on Courter and Pintusava for wins down the stretch. He also needs another doubles pairing to step up and help the team claim the point.

That needs to happen for Minnesota this weekend, especially if it hopes to push deep into the Big Ten tournament.

“We need those doubles points,” Courter said. “We’ve been working hard on that point all year, and we feel like we’re going to get it at the Big Ten [tournament].”