Kononova, Kutubidze Return To All-American Tournament With More Confidence
North Texas' Doubles Team Prepares For ITA All-American Championship
The North Texas tennis team juniors are back at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Riviera Women’s All-American Tennis Championships from the Riviera Tennis Club where they made waves a season ago.
This year, however, Kononova and Kutubidze are no longer soaring under the radar.
The No. 22 nationally ranked doubles team heads to Southern California after finishing last spring 17-1 and winning the Milwaukee Classic doubles title in September.
“Last year we had less experience and didn’t really know what to expect since this is the best tournament in college,” said Kutubidze. “Now that we know how everything works and what we are capable of, we believe we can be as good as anybody else here so we’re going to do what we always do and compete and give our best.”
Last year at the All-American tournament, Kononova and Kutbidze were still figuring each other out. The then sophomores had only a couple handful of matches under their belts but a match versus the No. 36 ranked Oklahoma State team propelled the Mean Green’s doubles team to a program record-setting year.
Kononova and Kutubidze defeated the Cowgirls’ doubles team 8-7(7-4).
The highest-ranking doubles team the pair had ever beaten.
Following the win, Kononova and Kutubidze proceeded to win 20 of their next 21 matches. The only loss came in the ITA Texas Regional Championship semifinals against Baylor’s doubles team that reached as high as No. 9 in the national rankings.
“Our match against Oklahoma State was a turning point,” said Kononova. “It helped us realize that we can compete with the best and win.”
In this year’s field, Kononova and Kutubidze enter the bracket as the No. 3 overall seed. They will face a Vanderbilt team in the first round on Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. ct.
One of the Vanderbilt players they will be going up against is Christina Rosca, who is the No. 47 nationally ranked singles player. Her partner, Emma Kurtz, is the No. 112 nationally ranked singles player.
“The best thing about the All-American tournament is that every match will be against a quality opponent,” said associate head coach Jeff Hammond, who is traveling with the Kononova and Kutubidze. “There are no easy rounds here. Certainly Maria and Tamuna will bring their best against the best and will fight hard on every point for the Mean Green.”
Kononova will also be competing in the qualifying singles tournament.
She’s the No. 41 nationally ranked singles player and the No. 29 seed in the 64-player singles tournament. She will face Arizona State’s Kelly Anderson in the first round. Anderson is the No. 67 nationally ranked player and the No. 30 seeded player in the tournament.