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The view from above

CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
After reaching the semifinals of the Pac-10 doubles championships last spring, the UA senior tandem of Dianne Hollands, left, and Maja Mlakar received the No. 1 ranking in the nation in the ICA's preseason poll, released earlier this week.
By Roman Veytsman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 16, 2004
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Arizona women's tennis seniors Maja Mlakar and Dianne Hollands knew that if they put in the time and kept their work ethic up, they would eventually reap the rewards.

But this? A No. 1 national preseason ranking by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's preseason poll?

It hadn't even crossed their minds.

"We were surprised," said Mlakar, who joins Hollands and junior transfer Stephanie Balzert in Waco, Texas, at the Baylor Invitational beginning tomorrow. "We just didn't expect it."

Although the two didn't see it coming, coach Vicki Maes believes they are deserving after four years of hard work, dedication and determination both on and off the court.

Mlakar and Hollands advanced to the semifinals of the Pacific 10 Conference tournament last season, only to bow out early in the first round of the NCAA tournament. They finished the year 19-8 as a pair and ended the season ranked fifth in the nation.

"When we found out about the ranking we were really excited," Hollands said.

To be a great doubles team at the college level, chemistry has to be involved.

That's the easy part for Hollands and Mlakar, though. Not only are they teammates and classmates, but they're also roommates.

"We get along well on and off the court," said Hollands, also ranked No. 7 individually.

"We hang out a lot, and I'm not late to practice because of Maja," she added with a smile.

Having each other's backs is important in tennis, but these girls are the first ones to have each other's backs as students as well.

"We can talk about stuff," said Hollands. "Obviously when we go home we don't want to talk about tennis. If we're having trouble or there's something we need to discuss, we're always there for each other. We want to watch each other do well. That's the main thing."

Hollands said she's aware that holding the top spot brings added pressure to both the UA team and the two as a doubles pair, but added that the duo isn't fazed.

"The main thing about being No. 1 is that we need to stay positive with ourselves," Hollands said. "Obviously, we're not going to win every match, so I think it's important that we stay up and not get pressured by the rankings."

"Our goal is to stay at No. 1 through the season," Mlakar said.

One thing that brings Mlakar and Hollands closer is their similar paths toward their current prominence.

Mlakar is from Slovenia while Hollands is from New Zealand, and though adjusting to desert life in Arizona wasn't easy at first, it's all been worth it in the end.

"It was hard at first, but we've improved so much," Mlakar said. "We've worked really hard all four years."

"We've matured as players and as people too," added Hollands. "We were fresh and we didn't know the whole college scene. Things that used to get to us don't normally frustrate us anymore."

Mlakar and Hollands weren't the only players on the UA team trying to adjust to life in the states.

"Since we came in with a lot of foreigners, (adjusting) was so much easier for us," said Mlakar.

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