Gophers open tennis season at home

by Dan Miller

Opening the fall season, senior Minnesota tennis player Brandi Watts knew how difficult the transition from practice competition to match competition can be.

“It’s all mental,” Watts said. “It’s totally different playing matches than just hitting the ball around in practice. You have to think a lot more. You have to think about strategy and placement.”

Saturday, the second day of the inaugural Gophers Invitational, Watts had plenty of time for thinking.

After beating Amber Murdock from Wisconsin-Green Bay 3-6, 6-0, 6-1 Friday, it took three hours and 15 minutes to finish off Barbara Kourim of Denver 4-6, 6-3, 7-6.

“It was hard in the third set to hit the ball hard,” Watts said of the marathon match. “But it always feels good to win a match that you really fought for.”

Watts ran out of gas in the quarterfinals against Gustavus Adolphus’ Lyndsey Palen, losing in straight sets 7-6, 6-3.

“The first matches are always hard,” Watts said. “Everyone is nervous coming in but these fall tournaments are good to get back into it.”

The weekend’s tournament gave the women’s team a chance to show off the University’s new Baseline Tennis Center.

“It was nice to showcase our new facility,” Gophers coach Tyler Thompson said. “Things have gone smoothly. The weather has been nice and it’s great to get in some outdoor tennis while we still can.”

Thompson said he is looking for certain things in his players in an early fall tournament.

“I’m looking to see how well conditioned they are,” Thompson said. “I look for things they need to work on in practice and how they respond to adversity.

“The fall season is an opportunity for these players to develop for the spring season,” he said.

Senior Amy Thomas, in the “David Wheaton” bracket, was beaten by Zorana Sefanovic of Drake, 6-1, 6-0, and defaulted in the consolation bracket.

Freshman Lindsay Risebrough, playing in the “Kevin Garnett” flight, began her Gophers career by beating Kristin Leeder of Wisconson-Green Bay 6-0, 6-1 Friday, and knocked off Jill Palen of Iowa State 6-2, 6-1 Saturday. Later, Risebrough lost in the quarterfinals 6-4, 6-4 to Denver’s Jenny Trettin.

“We are excited about Lindsay Risebrough,” Thompson said. “She has a bright future with us. She has a good attitude and will continue to improve as she develops her confidence playing college tennis.”

Watts and Risebrough teamed up in doubles competition in the “Prince” flight and were beaten in the quarterfinals by Kourim and Dullens of Denver.

The Gophers team will travel to Williamsburg, Va., for the William and Mary Invitational Friday.