March 13, 2014
Sophomore Julia Elbaba (Oyster Bay, N.Y.) is one of the top women's tennis players in the nation. Elbaba, who is ranked a program-best No. 3 in singles and No. 9 in doubles with teammate Rachel Pierson (Princeton, N.J.) earned ITA National Rookie of the Year and All-America honors last season.
This season, she was added as a team captain and clinched Virginia's thrilling 5-2 win over top-ranked Duke. Elbaba recently visited with VirginiaSports.com to talk tennis, UVa, Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks.
Q: What expectations do you have for the team this season?
Julia Elbaba: "I thought we had a really strong team from Nos. 1-8 positions, and we do. It's really fun playing with these girls and we all fight hard and have pretty similar game styles. We all feel each other's happiness and pains through the matches. We are always very supportive and want the same thing for our team."
Q: How did you refocus after the first ACC loss to North Carolina?
JE: "It was a little disappointing. It was out first match outdoors of the season, where as UNC had played several matches outside and was a little more prepared. But all credit to them, they played a great match. We won the doubles point, and played really well there. But then at singles, UNC was pretty dominant. We learned from the match and we'll move forward the rest of the season."
Q: What goals have you set for the team?
JE: "As a team we want to make it to Athens [site of the NCAA Championships] and hopefully get to the quarterfinals and semifinals. But our first goal is to win the ACC championship and we want to be a top-five team, and we got there! Now we want to maintain it."
Q: What expectations do you have for yourself this season?
JE: "I hope to be a dominant No. 1 singles player and help my team reach our ACC and NCAA goals. Hopefully, I can do well in the individual NCAA singles championship and make it far there. Last year I lost to North Carolina's Caroline Price int he second round, so this year I hope to make it further now that I have more experience."
Q: You have been extremely successful this year at No. 1 singles and doubles. What are the strengths of your game right now?
JE: "I really like my forehand and I try to use it as much as possible. I think my serve has been pretty strong. My best ability is my movement and my court coverage. I'm always prepared and have plan A through Z ready."
Q: How has it been playing No. 1 Doubles with 1st Year Rachel Pierson?
JE: "Rachel and I are amazing friends. Before she came to UVa, I was really trying to get her here and I was so happy to have her commit. It's really exciting playing with her. She's so tall and she sets me up so well at the net. We get along very well on and off the court. Our style of play suits each other well and we are successful together."
Q: How do your and Rachel's games compliment each other?
JE: "We have really helped each other. She's come in as a first year and it's like she knew what to expect. She's been following college tennis for some time and she really belongs at No. 1 doubles with me. She helps me and I help her. We both go through tough patches and it's great to have each other."
Q: What are your favorite classes so far?
JE: "I am going to major in media studies and plan to minor in French. I really enjoy those classes. Lately, I have been enjoying my teaching as a profession class. I enjoy working with little kids."
Q: Off the tennis court, what do you like to do in your free time?
JE: "I go to Venable Elementary School [in Charlottesville] once a week and tutor kindergarteners. I help them learn to read and color. It's really fun and I just love working with kids. It's been one of the greatest things of the semester. They are very special and I learn a lot about myself when I am helping out with them."
Q: Growing up on Long Island as an NBA and New York Knicks fan, what are their chances to make a playoff run?
JE: "I'm a huge Knicks fan, and as we all know the Knicks have gone through a bit of a slump but right know they are on a five-game winning streak. We have some tough games coming up against the [Miami] Heat and the [Brooklyn] Nets, but hopefully [the Knicks] can get the No. 8 playoff seed."
Q: If you were a Knicks player, who would you be?
JE: "Definitely Carmelo Anthony since he's my favorite player on the Knicks. When we went up to Syracuse University this season for our match, I made the whole team visit the Carmelo Anthony Basketball Training Center. I was knocking on the door asking for him, but unfortunately he wasn't there."