Cyclones with new pairings and preseason rankings ahead of fall openers


Jacob Rice

Miska Kadleckova competes against the Oklahoma Sooners on April 8, 2022 at Ames Racquet and Fitness.

The fall season is finally upon the Iowa State tennis team, as they are set to begin the 2022-23 season this weekend at tournaments across two states.

The Cyclones, who will have all seven of their players from last year returning, will send five of their athletes to the Milwaukee Classic and the professional Lubbock 15K events this weekend. It will be the first taste of collegiate competition for the Cyclone ladies after a summer off, with many of the players participating in tournaments in the offseason.

Head coach Boomer Saia spoke with excitement in describing the upcoming tournaments, saying that he and his team are “ready to go.”

“At the end of summer, it always feels like you’re ready to get back into things once you start practicing things, and now the competition is the best part,” Saia said. “Excited definitely would be the word going into this fall.”

Saia, now in his fifth year as head of the Cyclones, leads a squad that returns a few All-American and Big 12-level contenders. Iowa State will be highlighted in the Milwaukee Classic with the duo of junior Miska Kadleckova and senior Chie Kezuka playing both singles and pairing up in doubles for the first time.

Kadleckova is coming off a season that saw her and partner Sofia Cabezas create history, as they became the first doubles pair from Iowa State to qualify for the ITA Fall National Championships. In the regional final in Des Moines last fall, Kadleckova and Cabezas overcame teammates Thasaporn Naklo and Christin Hsieh 7-5, 4-6 and 10-4 in the tiebreaker. The pair managed to win their first match at the national championships before falling in the round of 16.

Kadleckova seemed excited to be paired with Kezuka, who played primarily singles last season.

“I feel like we all know each other,” Kadleckova said. “We all know what type of game-style everyone will play. We tried [playing] a couple of practice matches together and it went really well, so we’ll just go from that.”

Kezuka, like Kadleckova, also had a strong season in her own right last year at the No. 5 singles spot, as she won the Big 12 tournament during the spring season and second team All-Big 12 honors in doubles. The Fujisawa, Japan, native posted a record of 26-4 in singles alone last year, including going 18-1 during the spring season. Her eight conference wins also broke a school record, as she racked up the third-most wins in a season by a Cyclone player.

Kezuka, who is in her final fall season as a Cyclone, spoke of her mental approach with her new partner Kadleckova as more relaxed.

“I just want to have fun with her,”Kezuka said about the partnership. “I think that if we try to have fun playing together, I think that it will help us play well [in tournaments].”

Kadleckova and Kezuka are the No. 3 seed in the doubles bracket and will face off against Emilija Kojcic and Lara Kaiser of Marquette. Kadleckova will open her singles play against top seed Georgia Drummy of Duke. Drummy is a two-time ITA All-American selection in singles and qualified for the NCAA tournament last spring in doubles with partner Karolina Berankova. Kezuka will play against Navy’s Stella Ribaudo in the first round.

“They’re two of our more consistent and high-performing kids,” Saia said of Kezuka and Kadleckova. “Both of them had great springs last year, and I think they’re going to gel really well this weekend. Really excited to see how they do, and the Milwaukee Tennis Classic is a pretty famous fall tournament, a national tournament that they got invited to. I think they’ll fit in great together and am excited to see what they’ll do.”

At the Lubbock 15K, the Cyclones will be represented in singles by Naklo, as well as sophomores Ange Oby Kajuru and Anna Supapitch Kuearum. The tournament, which is also called the West Texas Pro Tennis Open, will feature several professional players in the main draw. Poland’s Martyna Kubka, currently ranked 490th in the WTA rankings, will be the top seed.

Naklo and Kajuru will play in the qualifying rounds that decide the final two spots in the main draw, while Kuearum is currently listed as an alternate.

A win for Naklo would be a milestone, as it would mark her 100th career victory as a Cyclone. The Thai native has collected 53 wins in singles and 46 in doubles so far in her collegiate career. She made history last season when she became the first singles player from Iowa State to qualify for the ITA Fall National and the NCAA Championships in the spring. Naklo finished last season ranked No. 55 in the national rankings, the highest by a Cyclone singles player.

This fall will be the first of such seasons for Kajuru and Kuearum, as they sat out the fall semester last year as freshmen. In the spring, the pair saw more playing time, as they both recorded double-digit winning records in singles.

Kajuru had a breakout spring, recording 31 wins across singles and doubles. Along with Kezuka, she won the Big 12 doubles title at the No. 3 spot and finished the year by being named to the conference’s Second Team in both disciplines. She and Kezuka’s 7-1 record in the Big 12 was the most by a doubles pair in Iowa State history.

Kuearum posted a record of 11-7 last year while playing primarily in the No. 4 spot. The Bangkok, Thailand native recorded wins against her opponents from Purdue, Kansas and Iowa, with all three dual matches ending in Iowa State victories. She, along with teammate Naklo, spent the offseason playing in a series of professional tournaments in Thailand, with the pair even playing against each other at the W15 Ching Rai event in June. Naklo won the match 6-1, 6-3 in a tournament that saw her advance to the final before falling to Japan’s Ramu Ueda in a three-set match.

Naklo, along with Kajuru, Kadleckova and Cabezas, were all named in the ITA’s preseason rankings Sept. 8. The Cyclones have both of their singles players in the top 100, as Naklo (No. 39) and Kajuru (No. 80) reached career-high rankings. Cabezas and Kadleckova are ranked 39th in doubles after a season that saw them reach the NCAA tournament along with their fall season finale.

“I think it’s outstanding recognition of what our program has become,” Saia said of the latest rankings. “I think it’s motivating for all of our athletes, whether they were in the rankings or not. They compete against each other everyday, and we see the level that everybody could be ranked on our team. In the end, all of those are nice, but I think our goals are really big as we go into the spring.”

With the year flowing from the fall to spring seasons, the topic of “what’s next?” seems to always be on the minds of the Cyclone players. Kadleckova spoke of the progression of the fall and spring seasons.

“It’s a point where we need to start to build up on some things, so I’m pretty excited [about the fall season],”Kadleckova said when asked what sorts of things she was looking to improve upon.

Iowa State will kick off the Milwaukee Classic at 8 a.m. Friday at the Milwaukee Country Club with Kezuka and Kadleckova opening the weekend in singles. The pair will play in the first round of the doubles draw later that day at 3 p.m. In Lubbock, the qualifying rounds will start Monday, although a formal schedule has not yet been announced. Live updates of both tournaments can be accessed through the team’s page on the athletics website.

“Obviously, our game-style situations, trying to play a more aggressive game-style,” Kadleckova said. “We also started working with a mental coach, so I’m going to see how that goes too.”