The monumental effort from the No. 2-seed Katarina Jokic continues into the 2019 NCAA Singles Championship as the sophomore Bulldog defeated Duke’s Kelly Chen, 7-5, 6-2, in the semifinals Friday evening at the USTA National Campus.
The win makes Jokic the fifth player in Georgia women’s tennis history to advance to the NCAA singles finals and the first since Chelsey Gullickson won it in 2010. Back in November, Jokic won the first collegiate singles grand slam of the season at the Oracle/ITA National Fall Championships, and now has the ability to sweep the titles – a feat accomplished by just one Bulldog prior, Lisa Spain (1983-84).
It is notable that today marked Jokic’s 14th match played in eight days when factoring in the doubles championships and team competition. Tomorrow will mark her 15th in nine days when she takes on the bracket’s top-seed Estela Perez-Somarriba at after the men’s final, which starts at 4 p.m. E.T. on the Tennis Channel.
“It was a really tough match,” Jokic said. “We played a really good match. I’m glad I won in straight sets though, because I have one more to go. I’ll rest as much as I can, eat, sleep and get in the ice bath to recover as best as I can. I’m going to think about strategy, but also talk to Jeff [Wallace, head coach] and Drake [Bernstein, associate head coach] in preparation for tomorrow.”
Chen, ranked No. 21 in ITA singles, was the attacker early, taking a 3-1 lead and threatened to break Jokic for the second time on deuce, but Jokic held for the crucial 2-3 score. The close play ignited Jokic to three-straight games for the commanding 5-3 lead. Chen answered with one more break, but Jokic followed it up for the 7-5 first set.
Going into the second set, Jokic didn’t succumb to a slow start as she took the first game on straight points, and then broke Chen on deuce point. The two exchanged breaks and then Jokic had another stellar clean game for the 4-1 lead. On deuce point while serving at 4-2, Jokic won a lengthy back-and-forth that concluded with a two-handed net shot for the winner and 5-2 advantage. Jokic broke the Duke sophomore for the third time for match point when the Blue Devils’ shot landed long.
“I’m really excited for Katarina,” head coach Jeff Wallace said. “She played great today and looked healthier than what she has been. She has been pushed to max this past week playing 14 matches, which is the most by any man or woman down here. It has been a super-human effort. Today she looked strong. I really want to thank our strength and conditioning coach Katrin Koch and our athletic trainer Abbey Sponseller for the spectacular job today and leading up to it.”