North Texas Daily

Second tennis doubles set to take over next season

Second tennis doubles set to take over next season

Second tennis doubles set to take over next season
February 28
10:10 2019

Seniors Maria Kononova and Tamuna Kutubidze are the top doubles pairing for North Texas tennis. They have set a standard of success in that area of competition as the best pairing in the school’s history. The current second duo of juniors, Ivana Babic and Alexandra Heczey, will fill the top slot once Kononova and Kutubidze graduate. Head coach Sujay Lama has seen them grow to the point where they are ready to take the number one role.

“I think they’ll do really well,” Lama said. “I think they’re just only slowly scratching the surface. They have so much more to grow and experience. I think it’s possible [for them to succeed]. As long as they enjoy each other’s company and enjoy the growth I think the sky’s the limit.”

Lama has seen potential in his second pairing for quite some time. Just like Kononova and Kutubidze, Babic and Heczey have been playing together since their freshman year.

“The kind of power that they were able to produce was like, ‘wow’” Lama said. “If they could just contain that power I think they would be fantastic.”

There were growing pains for Babic and Heczey despite the power they possessed. Early on, their styles clashed before they could come together to win.

Fielding a shallow ball, junior Alexandra Heczey extends to return volley. Image by: Kara Dry.

“It was a big mess,” Heczey said. “We needed to learn each other. We needed to know how the other moves. We just needed time to get to know each other on the court. In the beginning, we didn’t really understand each other but [eventually] we figured out everything.”

Figuring everything out led to the two player’s styles and personalities coming together to succeed. Lama felt that their contrasts helped to bring them together rather than break them apart.

“I think you have the yin and the yang,” Lama said. “Kind of like the [Kononova] and [Kutubidze] team. You’ve got a highly emotional player like Ivana where she really lives and dies off of every ball. Then you’ve got Alex who’s kind of this easy-going Hungarian. I think that really is a plus because they kind of balance each other.”

When the two began to figure things out, they also began to win big matches. Wins over Tulsa, Texas-Arlington and Texas gave Lama the confidence to move them to the second slot. They started down 2-0 in sets and 0-30 in the game. They came back to 2-2 and won 6-4. The duo lost the following match against Texas Tech, but Lama sees the pairing’s attitude toward losses and struggles as one of their strongest qualities.

That trait will be an important part of their role as team leaders next year.

“The best part about this team is that when things are going really really south, that’s when they communicate the most,” Lama said. “That’s when they are most positive and I think that’s a great sign of growth and maturity.”

Growth and maturity will be key for Babic and Heczey success as the number one pairing next year. Kononova and Kutubidze’s success can be attributed to four years of competing together. 

Set to return a shallow volley, junior, Ivana Babic follows the ball to her raquet. Image by: Kara Dry.

“I think the most [important thing] is confidence and experience,” Babic said. “Experience is everything. After three years, there’s nothing you haven’t [faced].”

After watching the pairing for the three years they’ve been at North Texas, Kutubidze feels they’re ready to have the torch passed to them.

“I think they’ve proved it already,” Kutubidze said. “When they played, for example, the Texas team they beat them really well. I remember we were playing next to each other and instead of focusing on my match I was watching them cause they were playing so well.”

Kutubidze is confident that the juniors can do great things at the number one doubles position and the two will soon get the chance to prove her right. No matter what happens, Lama is prepared to stick it out with his future top duo.

“I said to them, ‘whether you’re gonna win or lose we’re gonna ride with you,’” Lama said. “We believe in you. We believe in your greatness. I’m not gonna change that. So you don’t have a choice but to live and experience greatness together.”

Featured Image: After dominating doubles, the tennis team shares a laugh as they head to prepare for their singles matches. Image by: Kara Dry.

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Caleb Akpan

Caleb Akpan

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