Q & A with Junior Julia Elbaba
May 5, 2015
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Junior Julia Elbaba (Oyster Bay, N.Y.) has helped lead the Cavaliers to their second straight ACC Championship. Elbaba has played at the No. 1 position her first three years and has earned All-American recognition each season. She has posted a 27-6 singles record and an 18-8 doubles mark this spring. Elbaba recently sat down with VirginiaSports.com to discuss her junior year and the upcoming NCAA Championships.
Q: Congratulations on the second consecutive ACC Championship. How was the tournament last weekend?
Julia Elbaba: We are really excited about the wins and the great matches we played. We got through a tough one against Clemson and then a very exciting win versus North Carolina. It was important that we all kept our focus against Georgia Tech the next day. It is easy to get distracted after a big win, so it was great that we were able to keep our focus and energy.
Q: The team has really come together recently. What is different now as you prepare for the NCAA Championships?
JE: We have had a great month of practice, with everyone there together, which has not been the case all semester, due to injuries. We are all healthy [knocks on wood] and the level of togetherness has helped us do so well.
Q: You had a few unfinished matches last weekend. Is it difficult to not have a decision when you evaluate your individual performance?
JE: I was in the middle of my match point againt UNC when the officials called out match off, and that was a little disappointing. I gain a lot of confidence playing against the top players in the country. You can’t rush to finish a match because it could take your focus away from each point. Even though it was recorded as unfinished, I’m happy with my effort over the course of the whole weekend.
Q: You started playing doubles with Skylar Morton near the end of the regular season, and you two are undefeated. What is it like playing with her on the court?
JE: I love it. We have been playing doubles together since we were 12 years old and we also won a national title. So, we have some experience. It’s a lot of fun. I usually set her up and she finished really well at the net. We get along really well.
Q: Did Coach Guilbeau know about your and Skylar’s history as a doubles team?
JE: Coach knew about our history, but just because Skylar and I play well together does not mean the rest of the pairings would work, because you need to win two out of the three matches. Now we have figured out all of the pairings and things have been going well for the whole team.
Q: You are a three-time All-American, three-time first team All-ACC, and the first women’s player in school history to be ranked No. 1 in the country. Is there anything you need to do to improve your game?
JE: Everyday there are parts of my game that I need to keep improving. I try not to focus on my ranking or any awards. Rankings change every single week, and sometimes it doesn’t make sense. I try to focus on tennis and the team. I am very excited to have had some accomplishments, but there is still more that I want to do. I want to win the NCAA Championship with my team and individually [in the Singles Tournament]. I am focusing on keeping my eyes on those goals.
Q: What’s different about competing in NCAA Singles Championship and what do you need to do in order to succeed?
JE: I have not played my best in the NCAA Singles Championship the past two years, so I am going to pay special attention to starting each match strong and keep a high energy and focus. It is difficult to play as individual when your not with your teammates, you become too relaxed. I want to keep that team mentality, and I know that my teammates will be pulling for me to do well and play my best. I really have to believe in myself that I can do it.
Q: Your teammate Danielle Collins won the NCAA Singles Championship last year, does seeing her win give you confidence this season?
JE: Seeing Danielle win last year gives me confidence that I can do it too, or Stephanie (Nauta) can do it. We all train together and work hard on the court. We just need to bring our complete focus to each and every match.
Q: After all your success at Virginia in just three years, do you plan to turn professional or return for your final year?
JE: I am 100 percent going to return for my last year. I want to finish my college career on high note and carry that into the professional tournaments.
Q: Do you feel like you have unfinished business in college tennis?
JE: Yes I do, and that’s all coming up now in the NCAA Championships. I have two more chances to shine when I really want to, as part of a team and as an individual. I am looking forward to it.
Q: How do you want to be remembered as a Virginia tennis player?
JE: I want to be remembered as a good teammate and someone who always gave it her all in every single match.
Q: What do you need to do to take your game to the next level as a professional?
JE: I have been playing professional tournaments over the summer breaks, which has been really helpful to get my feet wet. After I am done with college, I plan to keep going. But of course, I will have a great degree to fall back on if I have to.
Q: You mention your academics, what is your major and what are your post-tennis career goals?
JE: I am media studies major and I want to work in sports, as a journalist or broadcaster. But it would be great if I did well in tennis first. I like to speak, especially about sports, mostly tennis and basketball.
Q: Who is your favorite professor right now?
JE: Right now my two favorite professors are Denise Stewart and Roy Wagner.
Q: What makes playing tennis at Virginia so special?
JE: The coaches are amazing people. They are extremely intense, but that is why we love to play for them. They are going to get us individually to the next level, and they have gotten our team to the next level. Even when some days don’t feel too great, the hard work does pay off.