Senior women's tennis standout Jana Juricova had extra motivation during her NCAA title run last spring.
Lubomir and Jana, the parents of the Slovak Republic native, had traveled to the United States and were on hand to witness their daughter capture the NCAA singles championship at the Taube Family Tennis Center on the Stanford campus, last May.
"It was the first time they were here in the United States to visit," said Juricova. "They watched my matches online many times, before, but hadn't seen me play in a competition in person in almost five years."
Juricova's parents made the 16-hour trip to Berkeley to see their daughter excel at the sport she loves and experience all the great characteristics of the area.
"It was great to have my parents there when I won the championship and also experience where I have lived for the past couple of years," Juricova explained. "I was happy to see them enjoy the Bay Area and take in all the great things I love so much about this area."
Juricova usually travels home twice during the calendar year to visit family and friends in her home town of Piestany in the Slovak Republic. While their time together in person is limited, the Juricova family stays well-connected in other ways.
"We Skype all the time," a smiling Juricova says. "It is such a great invention. We usually interact on Skype once a week.
"The difficulty is finding the best time," Juricova explains, citing the nine-hour time difference between the two places.
Juricova grew up in the Slovak Republic where she took up the game of tennis at the age of five thanks to her older brother, who she would compete against all the time.
Tennis back then was a little different then the game she plays today, however.
"We would hit with wooden rackets that weighed a lot," explained the senior. "My parents don't play tennis so we had to borrow rackets from my cousin. My friends always told me all I ever wanted to do was go and hit the ball."
She quickly excelled at the game, and earned an invitation to participate in the 2007 Fed Cup. Highly-recruited from universities in the United States, Juricova took one visit to the Berkeley campus and her decision was made.
"I had a lot of friends that were playing tennis at the college level in the United States and I thought it would be a great opportunity," said Juricova. "I looked to see what was out there and as soon as I learned about California, they offered me a scholarship. I knew how great of a school it is academically and athletically. When I came to visit, it was a clear decision for me."
Her passion for tennis is equaled by her love for the Berkeley area. The political economy major recently completed an internship working with a local non-profit organization and has developed a desire to work with human rights groups.
"Being in Berkeley, it is so well-rounded and I really became interested in working with non-profit organizations," Juricova said. "My internship was my first work in the field. It was cool to experience it."
While she misses the food back home, Juricova has developed into quite the chef herself, citing chocolate cake as her specialty.
The senior also enjoys hiking and swimming in her free time and isn't shy about her love of coffee.
"I am addicted to coffee," said the senior. "I like sitting at a café and reading. It is very relaxing. The Rose Garden near campus is a great place to grab a cup of coffee and relax."
Back on the court, she begins her defense of the NCAA singles title on Friday as the Bears host the Cal Nike Invitational this weekend at the Hellman Tennis Complex.
"It was an awesome feeling, last year," said Juricova, who avenged a loss to Georgia's Chelsey Gullickson in the 2010 championship match with a straight-set victory in the quarterfinals of last year's title run. "After I saw my opponent hit the ball into the net, it took me like five seconds to realize it is over and I won. I am proud to do it for Cal and I want to do it as a team this year."
As Juricova begins her final season with the Bears, this weekend, she has aspirations to continue playing the sport at the professional level, saying "I don't feel like I am done with tennis."
In the meantime, Juricova will lead the Bears into an exciting fall season that features six tournaments.
The senior was asked to describe her career at Cal, so far, to which she quickly replied... "Amazing!"
You can catch Jana and all the Golden Bears in action this weekend at the Cal Nike Invitational. Log on to http://www.tennisinformation.com/tourny/5/2/0/6/3/9/2/draw-3-mf.asp for a complete list of brakcets and match times.