Meet Texas’ 2021-22 women’s tennis team: professional experience, international experience, a national championship under its belt

Shezan Samanani, Sports Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the September 17 flipbook.

The Texas women’s tennis team is coming off of its best season in history. After being crowned the Big 12 and NCAA champions and finishing with their best  record ever, the Longhorns made a statement in a breakout year.

This upcoming season, the No. 1 ranked team is going to be dominated by freshmen and sophomores and will be looking to go for a fourth overall and second straight national title.

Here are five Longhorns to watch this season:

Peyton Stearns

In Stearns’ first collegiate season, she was the No. 1 singles player for the Longhorns and the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament. Stearns’ Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings are No. 6 in singles and No. 9 in doubles with  partner Charlotte Chavatipon.

This summer, the sophomore from Mason, Ohio  gained experience at the professional  level. Stearns won her first career  title at the International Tennis  Federation 25K singles tournament in Sumter, South Carolina, and she also received a qualifying wild card for the  U.S. Open singles draw.

Charlotte Chavatipon

Chavatipon is entering this season with ITA rankings of No. 46 in singles and No. 9 in doubles with partner Peyton Stearns. The sophomore from Fullerton, California, was a key player in the team’s  success last season and is a  powerhouse on the court.

Chavatipon made the No. 4  singles spot in the NCAA All-Tournament team, as well as the No. 3 doubles spot with Stearns. She is expected to dominate again this season and is probably going to take the No. 2 or No. 3 singles spot for the Longhorns.

Sabina Zeynalova

Zeynalova joins the Longhorns for her first collegiate season as the No. 1 ranked Under-18 player in Ukraine. She is a huge addition to the team and joins a prestigious pool of international Longhorns.

The Kyiv, Ukraine product brings experience from the U.S. Open junior championships and  Junior Wimbledon this past summer. Zeynalova is ranked at No. 25 in the ITA doubles ranking with partner Kylie Collins. She is, however, looking to make a name for herself in singles play as well.

Kylie Collins

Collins joined the Longhorns as a freshman in the spring of 2020, but was able to leave her mark on the court anyway. The Savannah, Georgia product enters this season with an ITA singles ranking of No. 67 and a doubles ranking of No. 25 with  partner Sabina Zeynalova.

Collins and former Longhorn Lulu Sun helped clinch the doubles point at the NCAA women’s championship, and the duo earned the No. 1 doubles spot in the NCAA All-Tournament Team. Collins brings a new level of confidence when she plays and is going to be a force on the  court again this year.

Fernanda Labraña

Labraña returns this fall as a senior for her final semester with the Longhorns. The Santiago, Chile product was a valuable player in doubles last season with former Longhorn Anna Turati. She has been a consistent performer throughout her time at Texas.

The experience that Labraña brings to the team is going to play a critical role in the team’s success, especially since the majority of the team is younger. She is a very energetic person and player, qualities that carry  her far in the sport.