Terrapins star ousted quickly in college event Ivanisevic 1st-round loser at T. Rowe Price tourney

September 27, 1996|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,SUN STAFF

After all she has done for University of Maryland tennis in one brief year, Thea Ivanisevic didn't deserve such rude treatment.

Given a wild-card berth into the main draw, Ivanisevic was eliminated in the first round of the T. Rowe Price National Intercollegiate Clay Court Championships yesterday at the Suburban Club.

"A reality check" is what the Terps sophomore from Switzerland called her 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 loss to Florida State's Lori Sowell in the opener of a collegiate grand slam event.

Considered a host wild card, Ivanisevic was invited as a player of national caliber in the host state who didn't meet automatic qualifying standards.

"I'm honored to be here, with all the best players," said Ivanisevic, a second cousin of Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia, the former Wimbledon finalist and a top 10 fixture in the ATP rankings. "It was a close match. It shows me I can be up there with them."

Ivanisevic was No. 101 in the 1995-96 Rolex college rankings, at least 29 spots below any of the automatic qualifiers in the main draw. Sowell was No. 24.

Ivanisevic has done wonders for Maryland tennis. As a freshman, she was runner-up in No. 1 singles and led the Terps to a fourth-place tie in the Atlantic Coast Conference and their first berth in the NCAA tournament.

"That was a landmark," said Maryland coach Jim Laitta, a former Franklin High and Catonsville Community College player. "Thea helped put us back on the map. Now a lot of the top kids are interested in us. Thea has helped our recruiting."

Largely as a result of Ivanisevic's accomplishments, Laitta this month welcomed Stacey Walkiwitz, one of the top 10 high school players in Florida; Lorraine Bittles of Nashville, Tenn., one of the top three in the southern region; and Rachel McArdle, who, coincidentally, steered Ivanisevic to Maryland.

A native of Claro, Switzerland, Ivanisevic came as a high school senior to Bradenton, Fla., to attend Nick Bollettieri's Tennis Academy, where she met McArdle, who told her about the availability of scholarships at Maryland. She phoned Laitta.

"I got this call one day," Laitta said. "It was only a three-week recruiting process, while Michigan and Arizona State had been after her for a while. A little luck was involved. She visited and fell in love with Maryland."

The tournament continues with the second round and quarterfinals today, semifinals tomorrow and finals Sunday.

Pub Date: 9/27/96

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