Doubles Culture: How Sally Pethyridge and Iva Zelic find success

By Emma Swett | November 8, 2023 2:00pm
Women's tennis doubles team Sally Pethybridge (left) and Iva Zelic (right) pose for a picture during a practice.
Media Credit: Ryan Reynolds / The Beacon

In May of 2023, Sally Pethyridge and Iva Zelic became the first UP Women’s Doubles Tennis Team to have cracked the national rankings at No. 68. 

As Zelic embarks on her fifth and final season as a member of the UP women’s tennis team and Pethyridge enters her third, the two accredit their success to the 10 girls they call their teammates. 

Without the success of the team as a whole and the pair's own success last year, Pethyridge and Zelic would not have been able to achieve the ranking. 

“We got the ranking out of it because of the teams we were playing. We did well in the fall season and that set us up really well,” Pethyridge said. “To get that doubles point you need to win two out of the three matches so it can’t just be me and Iva winning. It wouldn’t really mean much.”

Without another Portland pair winning a match, Pethyridge and Zelic’s win would not have counted. By winning two of the three double’s matches, this allows the team to secure a win.

However, it isn't just the success of the individual pairs but the culture they are trained in that allows them to compete at such a high level. 

“We would all feel confident playing with anyone on the team because we understand how each of us are supposed to be playing,” Pethyridge said. “We’re all confident going into a match that we can get the doubles point, even if it's against one of the top teams in the country.” 

Back in September with the fall season on the horizon, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association came out with the preseason doubles rankings placing them nationally at No. 33.

Having had a lack of success at their first attempt as partners in the ‘21-’22 season, Pethyridge and Zelic found their way back to each other in the ‘22-’23 season. Ending the season with an overall 24-7 record, Pethyridge attested their newfound success to the bond they developed. 

“You’re playing with [your doubles partner] all the time. You know each other inside out on the court by the end,” Pethyridge said. 

Women's tennis doubles team Iva Zelic and Sally Pethybridge celebrate a point won together during a practice match.
by Ryan Reynolds / The Beacon

The ‘23-’24 season will be Zelic and Pethyridge’s last season playing together. Having ended last year on a high note, they are looking to carry the momentum further into this season. The two are hoping to finish with a top 70 ranking and make it to the NCAA tournament. 

“We can do it. It just depends on our wins and losses,” Zelic said. “We can win against some really good teams. But if we end up losing against a non-ranked team, that can push us out.” 

This year’s fall season provides Pethyridge and Zelic with an opportunity to work out the kinks before the pressure of conference play begins in the spring. With an emphasis on individual performance in fall tournaments, spring season brings dual matches where the Pilots will be facing off against other competitors within the WCC. 

Fall is also a time to build the double’s chemistry while adjusting to working with your (potentially new) partner. 

“I think doubles really helps team culture,” Pethyridge said. “It takes it away from being an individual based sport — with the mental aspect of the game being on your own on the court — to then having someone with doubles who can lift you back up.” 

Regarding the switch from playing doubles to singles within a tournament, Pethyridge and Zelic both find that the success they have together impacts the confidence they have individually. 

“If you’ve had a good win against a strong team, going into singles you’re confident,” Pethyridge said. 

Zelic added the motivational component that being a member of a successful doubles team adds for her as well. 

“When you’re doing well in doubles, of course you want to do well in singles,” Zelic said. 

You can catch the Pilots women’s tennis team back in action Friday, Nov. 10 as they are set to compete in the CSUN Fall Invitational in Northridge, California. 

Emma Swett is a sports reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at