Russian tennis star enjoying

first_imgOn the surface, Wisconsin women’s tennis player Katya Mirnova is just like any other freshman at UW. She likes hanging out at the union, spends a lot of her time balancing schoolwork with extracurricular activities and, like so many others, attended the annual Halloween festivities on State Street.Dig a little deeper, however, and Mirnova’s path to becoming a Badger is unique. Born and raised in Russia, she made the move of nearly 5,000 miles with her family to Madison four-and-a-half years ago and has since embraced life in America.”Definitely the cultures are different, but I like it,” Mirnova said. “I like Memorial Union; I like Starbucks, Jamba Juice, State Street … I like it all.”Perhaps her biggest passion, however, is tennis. Since the age of seven, Mirnova has thrived on the competition that tennis brings. “I love competing,” she said. “I’ve been doing it for such a long time, and [the matches are] always new to me.”In just her first year on the team, Mirnova has already earned high praise from her coach, Patti Henderson.”In many regards, she’s a sound player,” Henderson said. “She has a very good demeanor on the court. She does not give her opponent any indication of any negative energy that she’s experiencing. She’s gonna hustle for every single ball regardless of the situation and always believe that she’s going to be able to find a way.”Mirnova has competed this season in both women’s singles and doubles for the Badgers and has loved every minute of it.”I like them both,” Mirnova said. “I’ve always liked doubles a lot, but singles is fun too. I’m just happy to play both.”Not only has Mirnova had to adjust to life in America, but she has also had to make the jump from high school tennis to the collegiate game.”It’s a totally different experience for me,” she said. “It’s a lot of pressure, but it obviously gives you the opportunity to play your best. It’s very different from high school tennis.” Aside from adapting on the court, Henderson feels Mirnova fits right in with her teammates and the American culture.”She’s a pretty good hybrid blend of the background of where her family is from and where she grew [up], along with the Americanization that occurs with all high school kids,” Henderson said. “I think it’s a relatively smooth transition as a teammate. She’s fairly quiet, trying to take it all in and sort of learn by observing and witnessing.”Henderson believes, though, that one day Mirnova will be a vocal leader on the team.”She’s not super vocal at this point in time, but I think she will be because she has a lot of things to say,” Henderson said. “She’s very willing to talk.”Like all other student athletes, Mirnova works hard to balance her academic life with her athletic endeavors. “In the morning, it’s classes,” Mirnova said of her schedule. “Sometimes we have morning fitness at six in the morning. Then from two to five we have tennis, and then afterward, school. It’s really busy.”As if juggling an intense tennis schedule and classes weren’t enough, the trilingual Mirnova — she speaks Russian, English, and Turkish — also finds time for her other interests, which include downhill skiing and dancing.”She’s one of the few student athletes that I’ve coached that definitely makes the time for her for [other passions] that she has,” Henderson said.While Mirnova’s tournament results may not have been what she had hoped for so far this season, her coach sees it as just a matter of time before Mirnova reaches her full potential on the court.”I think right now the biggest thing we’re working on is the transition from practicing,” Henderson said. “When she comes out to practice, she’s one of the most focused players that we have and she loves to be out there to practice. She’s got a great work ethic, and she’s improving dramatically. That transfer hasn’t come as quickly as I think she would like to see it happen, but it will happen guaranteed because of what her work ethic is.”last_img read more