Milica Oliver really makes it look easy.
It’s truly not, but the former Iowa Hawkeyes standout is so smooth and on point with her game that it sure appears that way.
“There’s some great competition here,” said Oliver, who earned her fourth straight women’s open singles championship on Saturday at the Mississippi Valley Open. “It’s fun to test myself against these players.”
Oliver has made the trip from Iowa City for years and cleaned up once again for the $400 cash prize. This time she cruised past Sara Loetscher, 6-1, 6-1, in the final at Wahlert’s O’Connor Tennis Center.
“Unique styles,” Oliver said of playing Loetscher. “It’s my first time playing her in singles, but we’ve already played some doubles against each other and I kind of knew how she plays. I love Sara and she’s scheduling everything here and is a great host.”
A native of Serbia, the former Milica Veselinovic graduated from Iowa in 2008 as one of the best women’s tennis players in program history. During her tenure (2005-08), Veselinovic set Iowa records for career singles wins (131) and overall career singles record (113-27). She also posted a season-best 31 victories her freshman year.
“It’s always fun to come back to Dubuque and see the people,” Oliver said. “I think that’s always the driving force. It’s an opportunity to also play doubles and even mixed doubles. There are a lot of great players here, many from college that are either former or current players. It’s always fun here.”
Oliver also made quick work of Cedar Falls High School prep Madison Sagers in the semifinals, 6-1, 6-1.
“Mili is outstanding,” said Loetscher, once again reaching a singles open final at 59 years young. “Just a beautiful player. She has a full game and just a great attitude. She’s the full package.”
With the four-peat complete, it’s a question now of who could possibly dethrone her from a fifth straight next summer.
“I will definitely come back if I’m in the country,” said Oliver, who works with preps on their games at University of Iowa recreational services. “It’s always fun to play here.”
Loetscher had to grind past the greatest player in University of Dubuque women’s tennis history in the semifinals. Arantxa Martinez — who admitted to not having played much the past two years — entered the MVO for the first time. The back and forth match went to a third set before Loetscher pulled it out, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
“It was a big match, and a fun match for me,” Loetscher said. “I had to laugh because the prize was to play Mili. But still, I’m very competitive and enjoy playing tennis. Playing USTA leagues, I occasionally have to jump in and play singles. This was actually good for me. Arantxa is also a crafty player. I think my experience won in the end.”
A native of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Martinez won Iowa Conference singles and doubles championships with the Spartans and finished with a program record 121 career victories. She went undefeated in singles her junior season and currently works for UD in the university relations department.
“I see some good competition here,” said Martinez, who blanked her first-round opponent, April Weisheit, 6-0, 6-0. “(Sara) is a really good player. She had some great shots and moves pretty well. It’s a little bit weird being back after two years of not doing anything, to be honest. I was just playing last week, trying to get ready a little bit. It was kind of a wake up from not doing anything to getting back out on the court.”
• Oliver and Loetscher each secured a championship in doubles later on Saturday. Oliver teamed with Kareem Al-Allaf, also of Iowa City, to claim the mixed open doubles crown over Dubuque’s Alex Meyer and Sagers, 8-1.
Meyer was a former standout prep at Western Dubuque High School.
Loetscher joined with Iowa City’s Michele Conlon to top Dubuque’s Maureen Bortscheller and Mary Schumacher, 6-1, 6-2, for the women’s 45 doubles title.
• The men’s open singles semifinals are set for this morning at Dubuque Golf & Country Club. Top-seeded Al-Allaf meets Deerfield, Ill., native Pawel Jaworski, while second-seeded Carson Haskins of Ballwin, Mo., faces Iowa City’s Daniel Leitner.
The semifinals are set for 8 a.m. with the championship match to follow at 10:30 a.m. The winner claims a $600 cash prize.
• Dubuque’s Mike O’Donnell and Rick Crispo went 2-0 in round robin play to win the men’s 45 doubles championship.
• North Liberty’s Ray Whalen captured the men’s NTRP 3.5 singles title over Dubuque’s Chris Miller, 7-6 (4), 2-6, 10-8.
• Asbury’s David Hash and Dubuque’s Michael Jelinske will meet in the men’s NTRP 4.0 singles semifinals this morning. The winner advances to the finals at the country club at noon.