North Texas Daily

Kutubidze’s background shines in fierce play for Mean Green tennis

Kutubidze’s background shines in fierce play for Mean Green tennis

February 26
20:10 2018

With a straight face and a deadly forehand, Tamuna Kutubidze is not the friendliest player to go against. The junior comes from the country of Georgia, a place that favors the sport of rugby first and foremost.

While it’s not the physical sport of her home country’s choosing, her aggression and stern attitude on the tennis court is all the same.

While living in an apartment in Tbilisi, Georgia, Kutubidze noticed her sixty year old neighbor, David, hitting a tennis ball off of a wall. He was friends with Kutubidze parents but did not really know Tamuna too well. One day, David invited her to join and before long she fell in love with game.

Kutubidze and David formed a close relationship to a point where she thought of him as a grandfather.

“We were so close and he died [about] three years ago. I would just go to his house and we would talk about tennis all the time,” Kutubidze said. “I thank him for where I am right now.”

She began practicing by herself and eventually went into the academy to master the sport, but she did not exactly start out on top.

“Until I was eleven, I couldn’t win any of the matches,” Kutubidze said. “I was kind’ve of a loser in tennis at the beginning.”

The wins eventually started to come and, as a result, so did the attention from universities.

In 2014, she played in her first professional tournament where she made it to the quarterfinals. North Texas assistant coach Jeff Hammond wasted no time and reached out to her about playing at North Texas after seeing her potential. Her father, who is a plastic surgeon, visited the state of Texas many times and had great experiences, which made North Texas an attractive destination for her.

After only talking for two weeks, Kutubidze knew her heart was set on North Texas.

Mean Green tennis head coach Sujay Lama felt there was a strong connection between the coaching staff and Kutubidze from the beginning.

“Obviously it felt like she was the right fit for us and I think she felt the same way,” Lama said. “It’s been a perfect marriage and we’re just thrilled to have her on our team.”

But Kutubidze had to make adjustments when she first arrived on campus.

“I really didn’t know what I was doing and how college worked,” Kutubidze said. “ I was hitting with all my power and it took me a long time to adapt to everything, but I think I’ve improved as a player and as a person.”

During her freshman year, Kutubidze was named a First Team Conference USA selection in singles and doubles along with three match-clinching victories, a team best.

In her sophomore season, she established a formidable duo with fellow sophomore Maria Kononova. Together they set program record’s with 17 doubles wins and a .944 doubles winning percentage.

Kononova loves the connection that they share on the court and their chemistry usually yields wins as they finished the 2017 spring season ranked No. 58 in the country as a doubles team.

“When I play doubles with her, I feel she’s on the same page as me and we can perform really well,” Kononova said. “Being right next to her was important and we pushed each other to get better.”

The recent fall season was different for Kutubidze though.

She admittedly did not have the type of success she was accustomed to, and as a result she made the decision to stay in Denton during the winter break and practice everyday.

While most take time off and go home or relax, Kutubidze’s fighting mindset from her home country refused to let her be content.

“She’s a fierce competitor and has an incredible game. She’s probably got one of the biggest forehands in college tennis,” Lama said. The good thing is she wants to maximize her god given talent and it’s up to me to make sure she has the opportunity to be the best that she can be.”

She’s started her fall season 5-2 in singles play and has been consistent in the No. 2 spot for the team against any opponent.

Both the coaches and Kutubidze agree that consistency will be key if she wants to continue this solid start and take the next step. She’s already set records for this program, but she continues to strive for more dominance on the court.

Perhaps more important to her, though, is being a good leader on and off the court as she is now an upper classman. Her serious and competitive nature appears intimidating as soon as she steps on the court for a match or even practice, but she hopes it does not come off the wrong way.

That’s just who she’s been her whole life on the tennis court.

“That’s how I was raised. If it’s support, being a leader, or pushing my teammates, that’s just who I am,” Kutubidze said. “People always assume that because I have this straight face that I’m mean, but I’m actually a good person and teammate.”

Featured image: North Texas junior Tamuna Kutubidze hits the ball during a singles match against Louisiana Tech on Jan. 27.

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Deondre Jones

Deondre Jones

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