This past week, Stanford women’s tennis hosted the ITA Northwest Regional Championships. The Cardinal provided the singles winner for the 11th time in 12 years, as No. 14 sophomore Alexandra Yepifanova came out victorious in the singles tournament, beating teammate No. 105 senior Angelica Blake, who will join her at the 2022 ITA National Fall Championships, starting on Nov. 2.
With eight Stanford players in the singles main draw, the Cardinal found huge success: five players made the round of 16 — more than any other school at the tournament — while all four semifinalists came from the Stanford team. Blake and No. 7 sophomore Connie Ma came into the semifinals having won every match in straight sets, but both streaks were broken: Ma lost to Yepifanova 6-3, 6-2, while Blake dropped a set during her 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 win over freshman Alexis Blokhina, whose run was one of the tournament’s biggest stories.
Blokhina’s path to the semifinals included several elite opponents, including No. 50 Jessica Alsola from Cal.
“I didn’t have many expectations coming into this tournament,” Blokhina said. “I was out with a wrist injury the entire week prior and was hoping to just get a few rounds in. I’m very happy because I ended up having a good run, with some hard-fought battles.”
While Blokhina, the fifth ranked athlete in ITA’s preseason newcomer rankings, enjoys playing singles, she has a special place in her heart for doubles matches.
“I have always enjoyed doubles as it helps me develop my net game and think one step ahead,” Blokhina said. “I love the camaraderie on the court and always enjoy problem solving with my partner.”
Blokhina — in her first “home tournament,” as she put it — also reached the semifinals of the women’s doubles championships alongside Yepifanova.
“Playing with [Yepifanova] was a lot of fun,” Blokhina remarked. “She has a big game overall, and it set me up very well at the net.”
With four Stanford players in the semifinals vying for the title, competitive tempers can flare between teammates. But Blokhina doesn’t think this affects team relationships.
“Tennis is an individual sport, and you learn early on in life how to handle the pressure of playing against your friends and teammates,” she said. “With that being said, it’s never an easy task because you can’t fully express your emotions or get any coaching during the match. But, win or lose, you go on the court to do your best, and as soon as you leave, you continue being each other’s best cheerleader.”
Tuesday’s final was a tightly contested affair, with Blake and Yepifanova splitting the first two sets, each at 6-4. During the finale, however, Yepifanova was able to overpower her opponent 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, finding breaks at the right time to finish the match off and secure herself the title.
Both Blake and Yepifanova will be competing at the ITA National Fall Championships from Nov. 2 to Nov. 6 in San Diego along with winners and finalists from other regional tournaments around the country.
Before that, the pair will join their team in Moraga, Calif. for the St. Mary’s Invitational on Oct. 28.