NEWPORT BEACH — The past two years at The Tennis Club junior tournament, Kalika Slevcove said her back gave out, forcing her to pull out each time.
She made sure to come back to the tournament for a third and final time. The back held up in her first match in the girls' 18 singles division on Tuesday.
The recent Corona del Mar High graduate faced a former teammate in Caroline Larsen. The familiarity helped the third-seeded Slevcove record a 6-4, 6-1 victory in the round of 16 at the 22nd annual tournament, also known as the War by the Shore.
The shadows on the court at first gave Slevcove issues. She trailed, 3-1, in the opening set.
"Then she turned it on," said Larsen, an incoming senior.
Slevcove dropped only two games the rest of the evening.
She used her 5-foot-8 frame and pounded out winners. Her serve proved too much for Larsen to handle.
You might understand why Larsen said she rather would have faced someone other than Slevcove.
The two know each other's strengths and weaknesses. They played on doubles teams at CdM, helping the Sea Kings reach the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs in November.
Eight months later, Slevcove and Larsen found each other on opposite ends of the court. The meeting marked the second one between the two in tournament play.
The second meeting turned out to be like the first, a relatively easy one for Slevcove.
This time, it took a little bit of time for Slevcove to take control. She is doing a lot more stretching before matches these days to avoid another back injury.
Slevcove warmed up right after going down, 3-1. The mistakes she made in the beginning disappeared from her game.
She charged forward to Wednesday's quarterfinals. The match against Claire Rose Jaeger will be at 9:30 a.m. That just means Slevcove will have to stretch earlier than she did on Tuesday.
Slevcove said her new private coach, Syd Ball, has given her the best strategy before matches.
"He's having me stretch way more than I ever would have normally and that's helped my back out tremendously," said Slevcove, who works on her legs a lot.
However, Slevcove's legs were not the ones that were on the run on Tuesday. It was Larsen chasing the ball all over the court.
Slevcove entered the tournament with some momentum. She won the 18 singles title at the seventh annual Santa Ana OCCTA Junior Open Championships on July 1.
Reaching the top of a second straight tournament is possible for Slevcove, who plans to play at Cal State Fullerton. Slevcove is hoping her back does not act up again at The Tennis Club junior tournament.
The last time she advanced to the quarterfinals in the 18 singles division at this tournament was last year. She retired in the first set because her back gave her issues.
"Hopefully, third time's a charm," Slevcove said.