Kononova Beats No. 2 Nationally Ranked Player
Highest Ranked Opponent North Texas Has Ever Beaten
IRVING -- The North Texas tennis team's Maria Kononova defeated the No. 2 nationally ranked player Friday afternoon.
It's the highest ranked player a Mean Green tennis player has ever beaten.
Kononova's 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win over the Florida International Panthers' (5-1) Andrea Lazaro was UNT's (3-5) only win as they fell 4-1 at the Las Colinas Country Club in Irving.
"Today I had good focus throughout the whole match," Kononova said. "I wanted to focus on the ball and my game, not the opponent. I hadn't played great the last few matches so I was looking forward to this opportunity."
Friday's match was Kononova's fourth straight against a nationally ranked opponent. She lost the first three and saw her own national ranking drop to No. 66.
However, Friday she put that all behind her.
"I knew that I had to have a high percentage of first serves to give myself more aggressive start of the point," Kononova said.
Kononova put Lazaro on her heels as she had multiple aces in the first set.
Lazaro, the 2017 Conference USA Player of the Year, didn't' go down quietly.
The Spaniard who has been ranked internationally as high as 651 fought back in the second set after falling behind early.
Lazaro chased down Kononova's rocket shots and had a couple of magnificent backhand returns that were placed perfectly. Lazaro held on and used some momentum to comeback and claim the second set.
In the final set, Kononova showed her endurance. Dripping in sweat, she took an early lead and didn't let up. Her energy picked up with every shot and appeared to get stronger with every point that got her closer to the win.
In the final game, leading 5-4 in the set, Kononova took a 40:15 lead and finished Lazaro with her signature serve.
"Coming in on key points was crucial," Kononova said. "I of course believe I had a good match and I am sure there are many more to come."
Kononova's win over the No. 2 Lazaro beats her own school record, which she set last season when she beat Oklahoma's No. 15 nationally ranked player in straight sets.
Junior Minying Liang lost Friday but battled closely against her FIU opponent.
Liang jumped out to a dominating first set win and lost a narrow tiebreaker in the second-set. In the third set, Liang led 5-2 and had three match points but lost 1-6, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5, to give FIU a commanding 3-1 lead in the overall score. The Panthers then capitalized on that with a quick victory at No. 4 to clinch the win.
1. Tamuna Kutubidze/Alexandra Heczey (NT) vs. #7 Maryna Veksler/Ulyana Grib (FIU) 4-3, unfinished 2. Sandra Bozinovic/Mina Markovic (FIU) def. Maria Kononova/Nidhi Surapaneni (NT) 6-2
3. Nerma Caluk/Andrea Lazaro (FIU) def. Ivana Babic/Haruka Sasaki (NT) 6-0
1. #66 Maria Kononova (NT) def. #2 Andrea Lazaro (FIU) 6-3, 4-6, 6-4
2. Ulyana Grib (FIU) def. Tamuna Kutubidze (NT) 6-3, 6-2
3. Maryna Veksler (FIU) def. Minying Liang (NT) 1-6, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5
4. Sandra Bozinovic (FIU) def. Nidhi Surapaneni (NT) 6-0, 6-2
5. Haruka Sasaki (NT) vs. Mina Markovic (FIU) 1-2, unfinished
6. Alexandra Heczey (NT) vs. Nerma Caluk (FIU) Did not start