Sophomore Katarina Jokic outlasted UCLA’s Jada Hart, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, in a grueling three-set, two-hour-and 45-minute match Thursday evening in the NCAA Singles Quarterfinals at the USTA National Campus.
The win advances Jokic to the semifinals, becoming the ninth player in Georgia women’s tennis history to do so and the first since Chelsey Gullickson won it all in 2010. Not only was Jokic battling high 80-degree weather, but also she was playing in her 12th match in seven days when she rallied past the redshirt-junior Bruin. An hour and 15 minutes later, she would make it 13 matches as she and freshman Lourdes Carle stepped onto the court in the NCAA Doubles Quarterfinals although they lost in the third-set super tiebreaker. Jokic, of Novi Grad, Bosnia, was one of two players playing in both the singles and doubles quarterfinals on Thursday.
Jokic will play sophomore Kelly Chen of Duke Friday on the Tennis Channel at 5 p.m.
“It was a really tough match today,” Georgia head coach Jeff Wallace said. “Both players really gave it everything they had. Kat [Jokic] was so tired I wasn’t even sure if she was going to get through this thing. There was a moment during the match [in singles] it was almost like ‘should we stop for health reasons’, but she just kept playing and she reached a level that was absolutely incredible. She found just barely enough energy to get through it. And then quite honestly I didn’t think she would be able to get back out there for doubles, but a cold shower, a little bit to eat, and a massage, she got ready, and played some really good doubles. We had a huge opportunity there, but lost a close one in a 10-point tiebreaker. They played really well and I’m really proud that they are All-Americans.”
The quarterfinal match pinned Jokic, the No. 2-seed and First Team All-SEC, against No. 45-ranked Hart, a First Team All-Pac 12 recipient. In the first set, Jokic about evened up the breaks at three apiece on a deuce point to make it 4-all, but instead Hart held for the 5-3 lead on the way to the 6-4 first set. Again Hart jumped out to a 3-1 advantage in the second set, however Jokic answered with four-straight games to sway it to a 5-3 Georgia lead. Two games later on deuce point, Jokic sliced a ball that Hart netted, giving Jokic the 6-4 second set and forcing the third set.
For the third-straight set, Jokic started with a dropped service game, but this time she broke back in Hart’s second game to even it at 2-all. The deciding break came in game eight when Jokic took the 5-3 lead. Match point was a deuce point that landed long for Hart to secure Jokic’s fourth singles win in as many days.
In doubles, Carle and Jokic fell to Michigan’s senior duo of Kate Fahey and Brienne in a rematch from the NCAA Super Regional. In the previous match, the Wolverines won 6-3, but the longer version today spilled into the third-set super tiebreaker for a final score of 6-2, 3-6, 1-0 (10-8).
Together before tonight, they had beaten eight ranked duos in the past 11 matches, and were the 14th all-time Georgia duo to reach the quarterfinals. In the first set, the U-M duo broke three serves compared to Georgia’s one. The Bulldogs obtained the first two-game lead with a break to go up 3-1, but then it was knotted at 3-all. Georgia then broke Michigan’s serve for the 5-3 lead and held for to force the third-set TB. In the first-to-10 set, Michigan led by two almost throughout until Georgia made a final stand to make it 9-8, but couldn’t stave off the Wolverines any longer for the loss.
Georgia’s No. 1 doubles squad finished as ITA Doubles All-Americans with a 14-8 record, including nine ranked wins.