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Aksdal on the ball

Annette Aksdal is DU's first female tennis player to compete in the national singles tourney. Photo: Michael Richmond

Put a new name on your “A” list of national caliber athletes at the University of Denver. Maybe on the “AA ” list, too.

It’s Annette Aksdal, the first woman tennis player at DU to earn her way into a national singles tournament — the 2006 Intercollegiate Tennis Association Indoor Championships in Columbus, Ohio.

The ITA event is a showdown of 32 of the top women college tennis players in the U.S. There are two ways of getting there: be invited or earn your ticket.

Aksdal earned hers. She outclassed five opponents in the Central-West regional qualifier to gain an automatic berth in the national event. The regional had been a gritty dogfight, with Aksdal, a 20-year-old sophomore finance major from Oslo, Norway, the last player standing.

Her win put DU on the national tennis map and the 5-foot-4, 127-pound Aksdal in Ohio among giants of the college game.

“Everyone was like, the University of Denver?” DU women’s head coach Amy Jensen says of the November tournament. “She put us in the spotlight.”

A tennis tournament is single-elimination. You win, you advance. You lose, you go home. Bowing out in the first round, however, puts you in a “consolation” tournament, which is like getting the “honor camper” award instead of the champion’s trophy.

In the main draw, Aksdal faced Elze Potgieter of Texas A&M, then ranked 18th in the U.S.

The difference came down to nerves. “I got too tentative,” Aksdal says. “I had her right where I wanted to have her, and I let down a little bit.”

The result was a bitter 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 loss and a date in the consolations against the then top-ranked college player in the nation, Suzi Babos of California, who had been upset in the main draw and was spoiling to take it out on someone.

Babos prevailed — barely.

“I was right there,” laments Aksdal, DU’s No. 1 player. “I had the game plan. I had the skill to make it happen. I just couldn’t get the win out.”

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