Kopinksi, Falkin bounced from top-tier tournament

The ITA/Riviera Women’s All-American Championships wrap up Sunday, Oct. 6, but two members of the Illinois women’s tennis team were sent packing early. The nationally-ranked tandem of Melissa Kopinski and Allison Falkin were eliminated from the tournament Wednesday after falling in the qualifying rounds of the doubles tournament.

The No. 35-ranked duo of Kopinski and Falkin went 1-2 as a doubles pair at the Los Angeles-based invitational. Their lone doubles victory came when the Stanford duo of Ellen Tsay and Taylor Davidson withdrew in the first round of qualifying. After moving on by default to the second round of doubles qualifying, Kopinski and Falkin fell to Miami’s Monique Albuquerque and Clementine Riobueno, 8-2. They also lost in the backdraw round.

“It’s one of the first times I’ve played with Allison in doubles, so we have a lot of learning to do from that,” Kopinksi said.

Falkin agreed that playing with a new doubles partner contributed to the two losses.

“We haven’t had that much time to play together,” Falkin said. “I think we’re going to need some more experience together before we can pull off big wins like against players (at the Riviera).”

Wins were not much easier to come by on the singles side of the tournament. Kopinski defeated Courtney Dolehide (UCLA) 6-4, 6-3 in her first prequalifying match, but fell to Lily Kimbell (Georgia) 6-3, 6-3 in the following round.

Falkin lost both singles matches in the qualifying round, falling to Ester Goldfeld of Duke and Annie Sullivan of Yale.

In a tournament where victories came at a premium, the Illini drew positives from the experience, which featured many of the top-ranked players in the country. The No. 89-ranked Falkin played competitively in her first match against the No. 42-ranked Goldfeld, calling the first set of that match “the highlight of the tournament.”

“I was leading the whole set and then I ended up losing in the tiebreaker, which is tough,” Falkin said. “I definitely feel like I’m just as good as the players here.”

With head coach Michelle Dasso on the East Coast this past weekend to oversee her players at the West Point Invitational, assistant coach Ric Mortera accompanied Kopinski and Falkin to Los Angeles for the Riviera. Mortera and Kopinksi both called the tournament a “great learning experience” as they look to make adjustments going forward.

“It was a great chance for them to compete and see where they stand against some of the best players in the country,” Mortera said. “I think it’s a tough first tournament to play, you know, a lot of great players are out here.”

Up next for the Illini is the ITA Midwest Regionals on Oct. 10 at Michigan. Mortera hopes that the Rivera helped acclimate Kopinski and Falkin to one another as they prepare for Ann Arbor.

“I think the main thing for them is getting more matches with each other,” Mortera said. “One of the big things for doubles is getting that chemistry right.”

Kopinski, a reigning All-American and veteran of the NCAA doubles championships, says communication is key moving forward with Falkin as her partner.

“We just have to work on how to move well together on the court, like how to communicate,” Kopinski said. “I think that’s going to be big this coming season.”

Alex can be reached at [email protected] and @aroux94.