In her senior year at UC Irvine and final year on the UC Irvine Women’s Tennis team, Anna Bentzer has accomplished quite a lot.
Since her first season at UCI, Anna’s game has steadily improved each year, made obvious by looking at the awards she’s garnered throughout those seasons.
For the last two years she has been on the All-Big West second team in singles and doubles, and last season, she made the All-Big West first team in singles.
Anna also received the prestigious All-Big West Player of the Year and Big West Scholar Athlete.
She is an athlete whose career is what most athletes dream of: one that gets better each year, one that doesn’t peak too early and one where she can still end with a bang.
Before coming to Irvine, Anna was in the position of choosing between pursuing tennis in the United States and earning an education at the same time or staying in Sweden, where she is from, and going to college there.
Not only did UCI offer her a scholarship, but also the opportunity to ‘see something different,’ according to Bentzer.
She added, ‘In the beginning it was hard. Kind of like a culture shock.’ But like all transitions, her first year at UCI was only initially hard.
The youngest of four, Bentzer has grown up around tennis by watching her father and brothers play. It wasn’t until age seven that Anna started playing it herself and at the age of 12 began competing in tournaments.
According to Bentzer, the sport has not only ‘been a big part of [her] life’ but also ‘a big influence. It’s like a lifestyle.’
The amount of play Bentzer has had at UCI compared to how much she played in Sweden has also been a huge reason for her improved performance over the seasons. She went from practicing five hours a week in Sweden to 15 hours a week here.
‘So of course [my performance] was going to improve,’ Bentzer said.
However, according to Bentzer, there’s always room for improvement.
‘I feel like I’m never completed. … There’s so much I can work on,’ Bentzer said. She mentioned some areas in particular that need work, including her serve and volley. Yet, it’s her outlook on herself as an athlete that sets her apart from others.
‘It’s like I’m an unfinished product,’ Bentzer said.
Bentzer also points out that ‘having coaches that are positive and push [the team] helps enormously.’
Likewise, it’s been her teammates and friends, whom she met through tennis, who have added to her life as an athlete and individual.
UCI Head Coach Mike Edles feels Bentzer is ‘a coach’s dream. She’s the whole package. She came in as our number four [or] five player to now reigning [as] Big West Player of the Year, nationally ranked and a scholar athlete.’
Like past seasons, this one has had its challenges. This year is Bentzer’s last at UCI and as a veteran she is one of three leaders on her team along with seniors Kristina Boss and Hui Leow.
According to Bentzer, not only are they a ‘fun trio’ but they also ‘complement each other.’
She likes the responsibility of her new role as a team leader, but admits it still has some getting used too.
According to Boss, Bentzer is a quiet leader, one that ‘leads by example. Anna brings confidence to [the] team. She’s so successful because she pushes herself and … it kind of makes [the rest of the team] push [themselves] more.’
Although she has played doubles far longer, Bentzer has become fonder of playing singles matches since she took it up a year ago.
Yet, more than winning matches as an individual, Bentzer likes it when the team wins as a whole. ‘It’s so much better because it’s all of us together,’ she said.
Bentzer believes her steady climb each year is an incredible feat, one that surprises her but, she recognizes, also makes her a better player.
With her focus on the courts and her stronger physical and mental state, Bentzer believes that ‘it being my last season, I want to do as well as possible.’
She hopes to leave UCI with a Big West Championship at the end of the season and knows there are still things she and her teammates need to do in order to prepare themselves for the tournament. In the end, Bentzer believes that you have to give it your all and ‘do everything you can’ at the matches.
In the Big West, Bentzer is 4-0 in singles and this is certainly looking to be the season.
‘I know she’s going to have a really successful year,’ acknowledged Edles.
We’ll just have to wait and see.