By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Stanford senior Hilary Barte discovered a whole new world this summer playing several tour events, including the $700,000 WTA Bank of the West Classic on Monday at Stanford's Taube Tennis Center.
Barte, who was awarded a wild card into the tournament, dropped a 6-2, 6-2 decision to No. 43 ranked Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia in the first round. Cibulkova has been ranked as high as 12th in the world.
"She's shorter than me but her legs are as big as my body," Barte said. "She's super quick and uses that to her advantage. She's the best I've played."
Barte has seen tennis in a whole new light as she travels around the country with doubles partner Lindsay Burdette, a recent Cardinal grad. Burdette, now that her college eligibility is used up, can keep whatever the pair earns.
Burdette earned a cool $196 for reaching the semifinals of the doubles tournament in Atlanta two weeks ago, while Barte would have made $245 for reaching the quarterfinals. She does get an expense stipend, so all was not lost.
Last week it was Lexington, Kentucky. Barte finished her singles play and hopped on a plane for Stanford. Next week it's Vancouver.
"It's definitely not a lifestyle I am used to," Barte said. "Especially since college you are in such a routine. Travel is a big factor to consider when planning things. That's been an experience."
Barte noticed a radar gun on site as she prepared to start her match. She figured why not go for it and went up 40-0 on Cibulkova to open the first game.
That's when reality set in.
"When you watch them warm up you realize how good they are," Barte said. "Then when you see the ball coming at you, you realize it's a different level. Their footwork is unbelievable. When it got tight you could tell she was bearing down. I couldn't match that."
The Bank of the West Classic may turn out to be only the beginning for big stages. Barte and Burdette won the NCAA doubles title in May and could earn a wild card into the U.S. Open main draw as a result.
Barte is no stranger to facing pressure. She was inserted at the top of Stanford's ladder as a freshman and has been performing ever since. She helped the Cardinal to a surprising NCAA team title this past spring, too.
Stanford, which did not compete at last season's Indoor Team Championships, did not break into the top 10 rankings until the final week of the regular season and ultimately was awarded a No. 8 seed for the NCAA tournament.
"Going in we felt like the underdogs and we knew we had (No. 1) Baylor looming," Barte said. "I think once we got to that match, everybody was fired up."
Baylor knocked the Cardinal out of the team tournament the previous two years. Stanford returned the favor in the quarterfinals this season, and then went on to beat No. 6 Notre Dame, 4-1, and No. 3 Florida, 4-3, to win the title.
"The North Carolina coach (Brian Kalbas) told Lele (Forood) early on that he thought we were one of the best teams in the nation," Barte said. "I guess we proved him right."
The summer began with success in Athens. Perhaps it will end with a trip to the Big Apple.
Former Stanford All-American and NCAA champion Lilia Osterloh teamed with UCLA's Riza Zalameda to win a first-round doubles match, 7-5, 2-6, 10-6, over Liga Dekmeijere and Marie-Eve Pelletier on Monday.
The full draw can be found at the Bank of the West Classic website.
Bank of the West Classic
Marion Bartoli vs. Ashley Harkleroad, 11 a.m.
Shahar Peer vs. Daniela Hantuchova, to follow
Ayumi Morita vs. Victoria Azarenka, to follow
Young-Jan Chan vs. Yanina Wickmayer, to follow
Maria Sharapova vs. Jie Zheng, not before 7 p.m.
Melanie Oudin vs. Aleksandra Wozniak, to follow
Raymond-Stubbs vs. Borwell/Kops-Jones, 11 a.m.
Christina Michale vs. Kai-Chen Chang, noon
Olga Savchuk vs. Jill Craybas, to follow
Maria Kirilenko vs. Mirjana Lucic, to follow
Govortsova-Kudryavteseva vs. Perry-Scheepers, to follow