The crowd sat silent between intermittent cheers. Missouri’s Urska Juric and Illinois State’s Liina Suurvarik showed they deserved to be considered two of the nation’s best.
Juric, ranked No. 24 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, and Suurvarik, No. 30, captivated spectators Sunday at the Mizzou Four-Way Tournament at the Green Tennis Center in both singles and doubles play .
Juric won when the two met in the final of the A bracket singles competition, hanging on for a 2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 victory. Suurvarik came back for a win in doubles play in another exciting match that saw the Redbirds upset the Tigers’ No. 9-ranked pair.
“You have a different level of play here,” said MU coach Blake Starkey. “This is good tennis.”
The singles match went on for nearly two and a half hours before Juric won.
During the second game, Juric was up 4-1 before Suurvarik came back to within 4-3. Juric led 5-4, then fell behind 5-6, sending them to a tiebreaker.
“These girls really hold true to their rankings,” Illinois State coach Chris Hoover said. “We knew this was going to be a good match.
“They could play 10 times and nine times I bet they would go three matches and end up fifty-fifty.”
Fifteen minutes after their singles match, Juric and Suurvarik faced each other again in the doubles finals.
Juric and her partner Katka Sevcikova had earned the No. 9 ranking after two years together as a team. Suurvarik and her doubles partner, freshman Katri Miller, had been paired for two weeks.
Juric and Sevcikova created an early lead, but the Redbirds came back from a three-point deficit to force a tiebreaker and won 9-8 (7-5).
“We gagged,” Starkey said. “I’ll give Illinois State credit. They fought harder than we did.”
Said Suurvarik: “We’ve never beat this team before, and it’s a good team to beat. We have to bring our game (against Juric and Sevcikova). If we let them, they will just pound it past you.”
Starkey said some of the coaches asked him why he would jeopardize the No. 9 ranking by playing Juric and Sevcikova in this tournament.
“I’m not a big chaser of rankings,” Starkey said. “They didn’t get this good by not playing.
“They’re a veteran team. They’ll bounce back.”
Two Missouri players competed against each other in the B bracket singles final. Freshman Yelena Olshanskaya defeated junior Marry Barry 6-2, 6-2.
“(Olshanskaya) wasn’t really challenged this tournament,” Starkey said. “All of her wins were in the 6-2, 6-1 range. I’m happy to see what she can do.”
Missouri finished the tournament with two of three titles.
“I expect them to be a force in the Big 12,” Hoover said. “They’re making some noise.”