Chifchieva Making AU Tennis History

Tulsa, Okla.--After winning the first set in a tiebreaker and falling 6-3 in the second set, Auburn's Fani Chifchieva dominated the action in the third set to continue her advance into unexplored territory in AU women's tennis history.

On Saturday at the NCAA Women's Tennis Championships the Tiger sophomore rallied to take the third set 6-0 vs. No. 6 ranked Amanda Fink of Southern Cal. A day earlier Chifchieva took a straight sets win over the nation's No. 2 ranked player from Clemson.

Amanda McDowell of Georgia Tech, who is ranked seventh nationally, will be 14th-ranked Chifchieva's opponent in the semi-finals.

With her four victory in the NCAA singles competition, Chifchieva improved her season record to 27-2.

"I feel good about how I am playing," Chifchieva tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "My footwork is good and I am in good shape.

"In the match today the first set was very close and in the third set I thought I played very well," she adds.

Coming into the tournament, Chifchieva notes that her game plan was not to look ahead at who else was in the 64-team draw. "I decided just to concentrate on each match and worry about winning that one," she says. "I knew I was playing well and have been having a pretty good season."

Sunday's contest against McDowell of Georgia Tech will be a rematch. The Tech star won the first meeting in the opening match of the dual meet season for the Tigers on January 23. Chifchieva says that she knows McDowell will be a tough opponent, but is looking forward to the challenge. "The first time I played her I hadn't played a match since September and I am sure I will play better this time," she says.

AU coach Tim Gray says that the sophomore's Saturday victory over Fink is one of the best collegiate tennis matches he has ever watched even though he adds that he has seen Chifchieva hitting the ball better than she has this week.

"She is playing very well, but she isn't playing her best tennis," Gray says. "She can hit the ball better than she has this week, but what she is doing to be successful is that she is playing smarter tennis."

Gray says that Chifchieva is not giving opponents many short balls to attack and keeping them pinned on the baseline. He notes that she has not been making a lot of unforced errors and is pressuring opponents by successfully attacking the net more than she did in the past.

Combine those factors with an improved serve and excellent conditioning and the result is the greatest season in AU women's tennis history and it isn't finished yet.

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