Female Comeback of the Year: Bajin Claims Undefeated Regular Season

the comeback kid
Elizabeth M. Mcmillen

Captain SANJA BAJIN captured the program’s only undefeated regular season record, as far as women’s tennis coach Gordon Graham knows.

Harvard women’s tennis captain Sanja Bajin had no intention of spending her senior year languishing on the sidelines instead of rallying from the baseline.

During her junior spring, various ailments limited her to 10 matches, of which she won just three. Her feet, wrists and back each plagued her at some point during her career. Come senior spring, she aimed to lead by example.

Did she ever. During the spring regular season, she went undefeated in 19 singles matches, most of them at No. 5. In total, she lost just three sets during that stretch. As far as Coach Gordon Graham knows, she is the only Crimson player ever to achieve an undefeated regular season.

That was no easy feat considering that Harvard played six top-25 opponents, including No. 6 Washington and No. 4 California. But Bajin proved the Crimson had just as much depth as its highly-touted Pac-10 foes.

The culmination of the season came against Penn’s Caroline Stanislawski, when Bajin closed out a 7-5, 6-3 victory to clinch the undefeated season for herself and, more importantly, the Ivy title for the team. As the winning moment approached, she was feeling the pressure, but on the final point Stanislawski was helpless to reach Bajin’s backhand.

“It’s great that I finished undefeated and I won the clinching the match, but it was the team title we were all looking for,” Bajin said. “If I had to give up winning my match today to get the Ivy title I would have done it, but it’s great that this comes along with it.”

Bajin was not one to take the championship for granted, as it was her first in four tries. For the first two years, she excelled as the team’s No. 1 player. This year, she was able to step back and flourish at the No. 5 spot in the lineup.

“I guess I was a little more naïve when I was younger just because I didn’t know how hard it really is to win a championship and how much of a whole team effort it was,” Bajin said. “It’s really easy to be individual when you first come into college because tennis is such an individual sport and you’re not used to being on a team.”

As captain, Bajin led a team that regularly utilized three sophomores and two freshmen. She was the veteran voice that helped carry the young lineup beyond its years. The result was a team focused on winning the Ivies and reaching the NCAA Round of 16 in Gainesville, Fla.

“We’ve done a lot of team meetings and talking about what our goals are and making sure everyone wants the same thing,” Bajin said. “In the past when I was a freshman and sophomore it was always just kind of like going through the motions and not really knowing what everyone was there for, so I think that’s a big difference this year.”

Not only did Harvard achieve its goals of winning the Ivies and reaching the Round of 16, but it also recorded its winningest season to date.

Bajin’s undefeated streak ended against Arizona in the NCAA second round, a result that Graham said merits an asterisk because she was hampered by a back injury. She fell again in the Round of 16 to Stanford’s Alice Barnes, who was undefeated all season at No. 4 singles.

Despite the individual NCAA results, Bajin could not have asked for a much better ending to her career.

“I’m happy for [Bajin] because she worked hard to rehab, not just for her sake, but to lead the team and set an example for everyone,” Graham said. “Her leadership is a big part of why we were successful this season.”

—Staff writer David R. De Remer can be reached at deremer@post.harvard.edu.

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