The Now

As I fell exhausted, seated at the bottom of the net silencing 524 gator fans and their home team, it was astonishing to see how my team was crying for joy and my opponent in tears, and me just trying to figure out what the big deal was. Who would have thought reporters would call it “maybe the biggest upset in NCAA Women’s Tennis history.”

Taking a moment to reflect,I decided not play competitive junior tennis in 11th grade, burnout or teenage know-it-all, who knows, but this was during the major recruiting year for college athlete. A month before the fall college semester in 2003, with hardly a plan B ready as to where I will go for college, I signed up with the University of Miami on a full-scholarship off a hunch.

It was towards the end of my first season as a freshman tennis player at the University of Miami and , I hear we are going to regionals for a post-season match at Florida. Put yourself in my position, we had a fall tournament (off-season) called regionals. So, for me I thought it was just another match. I haven’t been on the tennis scene for over a year! I even told my parents they did not need to come.

University of Florida was the number one seed at the NCAA tournament and we were going to their home facility to play the round of 64 and meet them in the round of 32. Whoever wins, makes it to the Sweet 16 and the NCAA tournament. I had no clue of this. My parents always taught me not to look ahead, so inevitably it didn’t matter, the goal was to just take care of the now. We, the University of Miami Women’s Tennis team were ranked 23rd in the country at the time, and Florida was expected to win the entire tournament again that year.

In college tennis there are three doubles matches to play. If you win 2 of the 3 doubles matches you get a point. It’s a game to 4 out of 7 points (1 point for doubles and each singles match is a point). The deciding match for the doubles point came down to my court.

According to the gators article “The Gator pair jumped out to leads of 4-0 and 5-1 behind a pair of breaks, but that’s when the Hurricane duo (me and my partner Mari Toro) began their comeback. Suvak lost her serve in the eighth game, but UF still held a 6-5 lead with one break. With Suvak then serving at 40-15 in the 12th game, the Gators couldn’t close out the game and Miami evened the match and took a 7-6 advantage after Banada held. But Berecz came right back and held at love, swinging the momentum back in the Gator’s favor as they broke Toro in the next game to send Suvak to the baseline to serve for the match with a 8-7 lead. However, the Hurricane pair won the first three points en route to breaking Suvak and force a tiebreak. UF won the first two points in the tiebreaker, but Miami won the next five to take a 5-2 lead and eventually take the match with a 7-3 score in the tiebreak.” I remember they had match points before forcing the tie-breaker and our stubbornness wouldn’t allow it. My partner and I were pretty nervous but we were crazy and I think that helped. The doubles point goes to Miami, 1-0.

Finally, the gators win three singles matches and my teammates pull in the other three. I was not even into my 3rd set before I knew that it came down to my court. I remember feeling like my calf was going to cramp. The singles match took 2 grueling hours and 35 minutes. The doubles match I played before that took 1.5 hours in order to clinch, and with only a 10-min break before singles commenced.
I remember looking at my teammates screaming on the sidelines at the top of their lungs after every point I won. I remember looking at my coach trying to stay calm as she tried to keep me calm. I remember trying to conserve my energy, so that my body would not go into a full cramp and I would have to forfeit. I remember looking into the stands and everyone packing themselves as close as they could filling almost 2/3rds of the stadium stands. 524 people were there according to a Gainsville Sun article. Tennis doesn’t tend to draw big crowds and to me that was gigantic! Especially when there was no one to distract and all eyes were on every move I made.

“One of the key games in the match came during the 11th game of the first set. (My opponent, a senior) Dawaf was coming off breaking Banada to get the set even at 5-all, but couldn’t put away the Hurricane during the 22-point game that featured eight duces, five break points and three game points. Banada then held to take the first set. Dawaf rallied and won the first eight points of the second set, earning additional breaks in the sixth and eighth games to force a deciding third set. Both players opened the third holding serve, however the next six games were breaks, as Banada held the serve with a 4-3 lead. She managed to end the tend and held serve and Dawaf was unable to break her again. “Miami’s Audrey Banada edged Gator senior Lindsay Dawaf (Olney, Md.) 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 at No. 5 singles to clinch the upset.”
Again, in hindsight, my opponent was looking at the match that could have potentially ended her career. What was I thinking? Nothing. Just playing tennis, a game I learned to love, for me, no one else. Looking at the stats on the two articles. My opponent was undefeated up until that point.

The match ends with my teammates pummeling me! I get pretty nostalgic going down memory lane, because this moment is a reminder to make it count and enjoy the win!


To read the full articles:






Florida (23-1), which had its 40-match win streak snapped, lost the doubles point for the first time this season

The loss marks the earliest exit for a No. 1 seed since the NCAA expanded to a 64-team tournament in 1999.

The No. 1 seed had reached the final every year since 1999.

Florida had also advanced to at least the NCAA quarterfinals each of the last 17 years and at least the semifinals 16 of the last 17 tournaments; and finals each of the past two win the 2003 championship.

Florida’s four NCAA titles are second-most to Stanford 12.

*this was the first time Florida has lost the doubles point this season …

*the last time UF lost the doubles point was 28 matches ago, when Tulane took two of three doubles matches in the second round of the 2003 NCAA Championships …

*Miami improves to 18-0 this season when winning the doubles point …

*Florida had its 40 match win streak halted (last loss was a 4-3 setback to Vanderbilt on March 16, 2003 …

*the Gators had won 32 straight home matches prior to tonight’s loss …

*UF’s Lindsay Dawaf had entered today’s No. 5 singles match with a 20-0 record this season …

*Zerene Reyes won her 18th straight singles matches …

*UF doubles team of Jennifer Magley & Zerene Reyes won their 21st straight …

*UM’s Megan Bradley won her 17th straight singles match …

*Miami is 1-2 this season against top-25 ranked opponents …

*UF leads the all-time series against UM 31-21 and had won 23 straight meetings prior to tonight’s outcome …

*UM’s last win versus UF prior to tonight was on March 29, 1986 (7-1 in Coral Gables)

Written by Audrey Banada

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