Coming off of her first victory against a ranked opponent in last week’s match against 20th-ranked Ronit Yurovsky of Michigan, Anastasia Tripolskaya is feeling like she can take on the world.
The sophomore on the Wisconsin women’s tennis team was born and raised in Moscow. She was a three-time runner-up in the Youth Championship there and has since taken her talents across the world, where she and her team, which consists of four other sophomores, have struggled to find consistent success. But with last Sunday’s win against a ranked opponent, the sophomore is confident about her play as this season ends and the next season approaches.
“It gives me confidence because I became the No. 2 singles player after playing the whole semester at No. 3, and right now I feel I can beat anyone,” Tripolskaya said. “It’s all in my head. If I can control my body, my shots and my groundstrokes, I can play really good tennis. It definitely gives me confidence for the future.”
Tripolskaya currently has a singles record of 19-11, 4-2 in Big Ten play at the second and third spots on the team. She is 7-3 in her last 10 matches, and her three-set victory against Yurovsky was her first victory against a nationally-ranked opponent this season.
With Tripolskaya growing up in Russia, it may seem puzzling as to why she came all the way to Madison to play tennis. But, as both a student and an athlete, she is happy with her decision to become a Badger. She thoroughly enjoys the coaches and her teammates, and believes that the program provides her with the best opportunity to grow. She also admires the university’s business school, which she has applied to with plans to major in UW’s highly-ranked marketing program.
As one might imagine, moving to another country is quite a big adjustment, and Tripolskaya has noticed a considerable difference in the way tennis is taught and played in the United States compared to Russia. She said the biggest difference is in competition.
“There is a difference. In my tennis school where I was playing, there were always many different talented tennis players at different ages. Sometimes I was competing against 14-year-olds, but they would be ranked first in the country,” Tripolskaya said. “Here, I really love that we can play multiple matches every week. You can develop not just your technique, but also your ability to think on the court during the match, and I feel this really helps you to become a better player.”
Tripolskaya describes herself as mentally tough. She fights for every point until the end, showing this capability by coming back to win multiple matches this season after dropping the first set. Her coaches and teammates are also well aware of the sophomore’s toughness. UW’s first-year head coach Tina Samara believes that Tripolskaya’s tough personality off the court translates well to her play on the court.
“I think, especially in tennis, players play a lot like their personality. You see that she’s a fighter and that she’s stubborn, which make her great and frustrating in a good way as a coach,” Samara said. “She works very hard and she doesn’t quit. She’s that way both on and off the court.”
Samara sees Tripolskaya’s “never quit” mentality, as well as her ability and willingness to learn, as large factors in her recent success and success since she joined the Badgers.
She started playing last year with Wisconsin halfway through the season and slowly began to ascend to higher roles on the team. After beginning as the No. 5 singles player for the Badgers and playing eight matches, Tripolskaya moved up the ranks to become the No. 4 position where she spent six matches of the singles season with a 3-3 record. With her hard work, she climbed to the third singles spot where she spent the rest of the season.
Although Tripolskaya endured some struggles in the third singles spot on the way to a 1-7 record, the experience was about much more than her record.
Tripolskaya is always willing to make adjustments to her game, even though the adjustments have led — and may lead — to some struggles in the beginning, because she knows in the end it will make her a better player.
“One thing that she’s done really well is [working] on being outside of her comfort zone and doing some things on the court that she really hadn’t done before,” Samara said.
“It’s frustrating in the beginning when you’re not winning points because you are trying to do new things,” Samara said. “But I think [that's] why she’s getting the wins like she did last week and has the record she has because she has been willing to do that. Her willingness to try new things is a big part of her success.”
Tripolskaya’s personality also has an impact off the court, especially with her teammates. Sophomore Lauren Burich explained how she and the rest of the team can look to Tripolskaya to bring a sense of positivity to the group.
“She’s probably the most positive on the team and very mentally strong. She’s always trying to help us or talk to us, help us figure things out,” Burich said. “No matter if it’s school, or whatever problems we have, she is always the one trying to help everybody out.”
It is Tripolskaya’s mental toughness, positive personality and her skill level at the game of tennis that make her a valuable asset to the team this year and for the next two years as well. She appears to have what it takes to soon be the leader of a young and growing program at Wisconsin.
“She’s a fighter. She never gives up. She works very hard and she fights for every point. She knows she can do it and believes in herself, and that’s what really makes her a good player,” Burich said.