Fortunes turned on a dime for Petra Melounova.
One second, she was leading Texas Tech’s Felicity Maltby 5-1 in the first set Wednesday. The next, she’d dropped the set and was on her way to a stunningly abrupt exit from the NCAA tournament, 7-5, 6-0 in the round of 16.
It didn’t take away from what she’d already accomplished at the USTA Campus in Orlando, Fla. — the deepest run in the NCAAs in program history.
“I’m really happy I got to be here, and win the two matches,” she told Hawaii Warrior World in a postmatch phone interview. “I think this has been a great end of the season. But yeah … I don’t think I fully showed what I could do here at the tournament. At the same time, I think I will be able to learn a lot from this match. Just maybe look back at it in a few days and see where I can improve.”
— Hawaii Warrior World (@hawaiiwworld) May 23, 2019
Melounova, the three-time Big West player of the year, finished her 2018-19 season with a 15-5 record and a No. 61 ranking. She might be in the running for All-America consideration, given her high finish in the singles tourney.
As for why the match turned so dramatically, Melounova managed some analysis a matter of hours afterward.
“I think I was playing well, constructing the point,” she said. “(Maltby) was also making quite a bit of double faults, and some unforced errors. I was able to play faster and mix it up a lot. But she changed the game. She was really resilient, and she’s a really good player. She made me move a lot. I think she really was able to turn it around; maybe she was tight at the beginning. So for some reason I just wasn’t able to figure out what to do. How to play her. It was very windy. So some of the things I had in my mind I wasn’t able to accomplish. I wasn’t able to move the ball or go down the line. I think I knew what to do better, but I wasn’t able to execute it as much as I would want to.”
How Maltby handled her sliced drop/underhand serve was not the overriding factor in the match, Melounova said; in fact, she felt her opening-round opponent, Michigan’s Chiara Lommer, handled it best of any player she saw.
She’ll attempt to harness the skills she honed in other aspects of the game in what she hopes will be a healthy senior year.
“I was definitely pushed this season and this semester, especially,” Melounova said. “I think I have learned a lot about myself as a player, so I really hope to remember that onto the next year I have. And now I know I can really, as long as I fight and put my mind to it, I can really beat anyone. So I really hope to remember that next year.”