Q & A with Junior Captain Stephanie Nauta
March 25, 2015
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Stephanie Nauta (Galveston, Texas) was named captain of the Virginia women’s tennis team as a junior after serving as a tri-captain as a sophomore last season. Nauta earned a career-best No. 16 singles ranking this season and has helped the Cavaliers to a 12-3 record and 5-1 ACC mark.
Nauta recently visited with VirginiaSports.com to talk tennis, injuries and UVa.
Q: How have you treated your role as Captain this year on a team without any Seniors?
Stephanie Nauta: “We don’t have any seniors, so our entire junior class has stepped up. Personally, I have matured quickly over the past few years. That has helped me in my role as Captain. It’s not the easiest job, but it makes me step up on the court. I want to set a good example for my teammates.”
Q: How would you evaluate your performance so far this season?
SN: “There is always another level and you can always get better. Having the responsibility to lead the team has helped me to step up my play this year. However, there is always the next level to strive towards.”
Q: What is the “next level” for Stephanie Nauta?
SN: “First, I want to help the team win a national championship, the ACC Championship and good Top-5 matches. Hopefully, I can stay healthy and finish the season with a good ranking. And then do well in the individual NCAA Singles Tournament.”
Q: What do you do to continue to play through injuries during the long season?
SN: “We all go through injuries and unfortunately I have had my far share recently. The main thing I do is keep a strong mental attitude. When it comes to an injury, I am never going to let that stop me. I am going to do everything I can to get stronger with rehab and weights to stay healthy.”
Q: When did you know that you wanted to play collegiate tennis?
SN: “I didn’t know much about college tennis. I was travelling a lot to different countries for the ITF’s [International Tennis Federation], playing in the Junior Grand Slams – which was a great experience. I had a great coach, Pat Harrison, at the IMG Academy in Florida, and I was able to play against a lot of college and professional players there. College was the right decision for me because I needed to grow up. I needed more experience and to learn to be more independent. “
Q: What have you learned playing college tennis?
SN: “In tennis, you can get in a mindset that everything is very individual and you can become a perfectionist on the court. You can get down on yourself for a missed shot, and then those thoughts can begin to snowball. One thing I have learned in college tennis is that you can’t let those little things get you down because your whole team is also relying on you. College tennis makes you develop a stronger mentality. You’re fighting for yourself, this team and the entire program. That is what has helped me become more mature on the court, off the court and a better overall tennis player.”
Q: How would you evaluate your experience so far at Virginia?
SN: “From the start I thought Virginia was the most beautiful school. The coaches are great. They are knowledgeable and genuinely care about the players. I enjoy coming to practice and listening to them. I love this team. We all get along so well and fight for each other.”
Q: What are your strengths as a player?
SN: “My strengths are usually my serve, when I’m healthy. Even when I’m not, I have great placement. And my forehand, by far is strong.”
Q: How do you refocus yourself for the return game if you lose your serve?
SN: “I am very confident with my returns, so I just tell myself to focus on getting the first ball deep and then look to attack with my forehand.”
Q: Did you have a role model as a junior player?
SN: “I think my parents have been my biggest role models. My mom has worked so hard and was an athlete, too. I think having to be so tough has made me realize that I got a lot of that from her. She has helped me make the transition from juniors to college, and she has helped make me the person I am today.”
Q: Do you have plans after you graduate next year?
SN: “I am going to try to play on the professional tour. I’ve dedicated my whole life to tennis and my ultimate dream is to play professionally. So, I don’t want to stop after graduation. If I don’t make it, I’ll have a great degree to fall back on.”
Q: If you could win one Grand Slam, which one would it be?
SN: “The U.S Open.”
Q: Who are your favorite professional tennis players?
SN: “Roger Federer and I used to love Lindsay Davenport and Kim Clijsters, when they we still playing.”
Q: Which professional player are you most similar to?
SN: “I keep getting told that I play like [Agnieszka] Radwanska.”
Q: Who is the funniest person on the team?
SN: “We are all funny I think, in our own ways, but I think Marie [Faure] is really funny. Skylar [Morton] is the best dancer – by far.”