Texas women’s tennis: More than just teammates

Sam Starr

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 13 issue of The Daily Texan.

Tennis is an individual sport by nature, but this year, the Texas women’s program fostered a genuine chemistry that has propelled them to a 20–1 record.

The Longhorns are on pace for their best season since joining the Big 12 Conference in 1997, with their only loss coming against No.1-ranked North Carolina on Feb. 7. Coming into the year with six freshmen on a team of 11 players, the Texas women’s tennis team has bonded together through competition in practice and selflessness on match day, head coach Howard Joffe said.

“(They are all) very lovely and high caliber people,” Joffe said. “They’ve been quite selfless with each other, and that’s allowed them to sort of grow together and work together in a complimentary way.”

All teams thrive on competition, but this particular team has cultivated an element of support for one another that most others in their sport lack. The camaraderie certain players have with each other isn’t the main factor in who he picks as doubles tandems, but it has helped the Longhorns remain dominant in that area all season, Joffe said.

“It’s not really a function of chemistry.” Joffe said. “But the fact (that) the kids have chemistry together, I would say, is helping performance for sure.”

The extensive freshman class is a perfect example of chemistry off the court leading to success on it, as Lulu Sun and Kylie Collins have scaled the national doubles ranks and landed among the top 10 duos in the country at No. 7. Perhaps they have been provided an example through the play of senior duo Anna Turati and Fernanda Labraña.

“(I) didn’t know that it would go as well as it has gone, but (Lulu Sun and Kylie Collins) proved to be a very formidable team at No. 1 doubles,” Joffe said. “Anna (Turati) and Fernanda (Labraña) are another doubles team, and it just so happens that they are roommates and excellent friends, … and they just seemed like a natural fit.”

After playing together for four seasons, Turati and Labraña have developed a solid friendship that has aided in their impressive 11–0 doubles match record this season, Turati said in a pre-recorded interview with Longhorn Network that ran on her senior night, April 2.

“(Fernanda is) always happy and positive. On the court we understand each other — we know when we need help, when we need more energy or when we’re struggling,” Turati said on her senior night. “We can really be a dangerous doubles couple.”

Turati and Labraña are role models for the younger freshmen as two of only three seniors on the team, Joffe said.

“One of the interesting parts of being international, which Fernanda and Anna are, is … the idea that they can compete at the highest level (at UT) is something (they) really appreciate and really love,” Joffe said. “The freshmen on our particular team see that level of devotion and so forth and just embrace that.”

Turati’s love for her team has not gone unnoticed, and she has fostered close relationships among the Longhorns this season. The senior from Barzano, Italy, continues to teach the younger athletes the importance of selflessness in a conventionally individual sport. Turati’s hard work in team building has led to Texas maintaining their No.2-ranking throughout the season.

“I fell in love with the program, and I love Texas here — the coaches, my girls — so I’m just very happy I came here,” Turati said on her senior night.