The 2021-22 tennis season starts out strong with Mariia Kozyreva beating the 75th ranked player in the world, Saisai Zheng, two sets to one at the annual Berkeley Challenger.
By Eden Llodrá
Mariia Kozyreva, originally from Saint Petersburg, Russia, came to the United States at the age of thirteen to play in a tennis academy just outside Sacramento. Her love for the sport has always reflected in her commitment to move wherever there is competition and good coaches. Kozyreva was recruited by many large schools, but found a strong connection to the coach at Saint Mary’s. Since being at Saint Mary’s she’s noticed herself mature, “I came to Saint Mary’s when I had just turned 18, a crazy young teenager, and I really grew up here and turned into an adult,” she said.
Besides her incredible natural talent, her growth and love for tennis has only ripened and matured at Saint Mary’s. When COVID-19 hit, her senior year was cut short and all competitions were cancelled. She said, “it was the best year until it was cut short and I didn’t get to participate in the NCAA’s.” Now, playing her fifth year of tennis at Saint Mary’s, she is given another chance to show all that she’s got.
On September 29th, Kozyreva beat the 27 year old Saisai Zheng, who had been ranked 75th in the world. In the first set Zheng won 6-4 and after that Kozyreva completely overpowered, winning two sets back to back, 7-5 and 6-1. The victory was an exciting shock to the start of the Saint Mary’s women's tennis season, which Kozyreva defined as nothing short of “a really special moment.”
With a huge win like this, Kozyreva attributes her successes to the coaches at Saint Mary’s, “the coaches have been amazing and I feel lucky to have been part of this program.” She is humble in her victories and eager for more matches. This year is her final year and she hopes “it is better than the rest.” With this powerful start, there is no doubt that Kozyreva will make her coaches and teammates proud with her numerous accolades yet to come.
Madison Sciba '24,