April 1, 2014
CHARLOTTESVILLE - Stephanie Nauta(Galveston, Texas) is enjoying her second season at Virginia. She has helped the Cavaliers to a program-best No. 3 ranking with her sparkling 13-1 record that has earned her a No. 45 singles ranking.
Nauta recently visited with VirginiaSports.com to talk tennis, UVa and Russian.
Q: What were your goals entering the season?
Stephanie Nauta: "I have focused on incorporating what I have worked on in practice and transferring that into my match play, and I'm not worrying about winning or losing, anything like that. Just sticking to my game and taking care of business."
Q: What have been the strengths of your game?
SN: "My strengths so far have been my serve. I have really improved that, especially with practicing with targets. And my forehand, especially the inside out shot. I've done a lot of repetition and practicing this season."
Q: What have you been focused on improving from your first year?
SN: "I've worked on my footwork a lot. So, when I get wide on my backhands and hit an inside out forehand, I am comfortable being able to get back to cover the cross-court forehand."
Q: What has been the biggest challenge this year?
SN: "I had a bad shoulder injury at the end of last season that carried on into the fall season. I didn't get to play very much. In the tournaments, my results were not very good. Leading in to the spring, I had to shake that off and work really hard to take care of rehab and get my muscles stronger. And now after working hard in practice and incorporating that into match play, I have only lost one match this season and it was a winnable match."
Q: How would you describe the chemistry of the team?
SN: "We are all very close and all want the best for each other. That has been driving us. Everyone is a lot more vocal this year and really done a good job pumping each other up. The energy has been way up this year."
Q: In the classroom, what are you studying and do you have any favorite classes?
SN: I'm studying politics and foreign affairs, and it's tough. I've also been taking Russian and I love my teacher. She is extremely nice and understanding with the demands of playing tennis as well. Russian is hard and time consuming. We have tests every week, and honestly I wouldn't recommend it if you did not have some kind of relation to the language. My mom is from the Ukraine, so I grew up hearing it and I had an understanding for the language. It made it an easier transition to taking Russian in college."
Q: What do you like doing off the court?
SN: "Honestly when we are in season, studying and tennis is my life. But, I like hanging out with friends and working tennis clinics. It's so much fun when kids come out and we can hit with them."
Q: What attracted you to come play tennis and go to school at UVa?
SN: "The thing that attracted me the most to UVa was how together the team was and how much all the girls wanted the best for each other. I've seen a lot of teams that separate and click off into groups. I like that we are all together and I think that we have continued to carry that on into this year. Our coaches Mark Guilbeau and Troy Porco are so passionate about tennis and work so hard. The amount of energy that that put into our team is also a major reason why I wanted to come to UVa."
Q: You mentioned your mother earlier, how was she an influence growing up?
SN: "She was a professional swimmer for the Soviet Union and when she came to the United States she started playing tennis. That's how I got into playing by watching her."
Q: How has your family been supportive of your goals?
SN: "My whole family is very supportive of me. I have a younger brother and sister who love watching me and love playing tennis, too."
Q: What has been a highlight of your tennis career so far?
SN: "In juniors, I played junior grand slams, which was a highlight growing up. When I came into college it was very different with the team aspect, having everybody together and cheering and pumping up each other. Especially when we go and play the SEC teams, and their crowds are insane, they really get on you. I think that experience has helped me improve my game."