By Steven Melendez/Staff Writer
If you haven’t been paying attention to FIU tennis, then you need to start. Senior tennis player Andrea Lazaro won the 2017 Oracle ITA National Fall Championships. Not only was this the first championship title for both Lazaro and FIU, but it was also the first time any player had represented FIU at the ITA National Fall Championships.
Lazaro defeated 11th ranked Samantha Harris from Duke 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 to take the title at the Indian Wells Tennis Facility in Indian Wells, California. It was the biggest win of her young career, and she had much to say about this historic moment.
“It felt awesome, I still can’t believe I won,” said Lazaro. “I played my game and I was fighting for every ball. I just wanted to give everything I had because it’s my senior year, so I just wanted to give everything for FIU.”
She did just that as this accomplishment marked the first ever tennis national title for FIU. There were 64 tennis players in the tournament, and Lazaro had to go through multiple tough competitions to make this possible. Aside from Duke’s Harris that includes 10th ranked Anastasia Rychagova from Kansas, 5th ranked Alle Sanford from North Carolina and 13th ranked Fernanda Contreras from Vanderbilt, she had a lot of tough challenges throughout the tournament, but there was one that stood out above the rest.
“The semifinal against Fernanda Contreras was a really tough match. She’s a tremendous player,” said Lazaro. “I lost the first set and winning the second on a tie break was amazing because I never win tie breaks and I really wanted to get to a third set.”
Lazaro’s 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-4 win over Contreras was one of the biggest in her career and it vaulted her into her and FIU’s first ever tennis final. Her thoughts on reaching the final were, as you’d expect from a winner.
“Being my first college final, it was tough because I was a bit nervous, but at the same time I was excited because I wanted to win,” said Lazaro. “I always said to myself that you don’t get to a final to lose it. All the hard work I put in during the week payed off and I just needed one more push.”
This win is huge and along with Maryna Veksler and Ulyana Grib winning the 2017 ITA Regional Championships for doubles, FIU tennis is on track for an even greater season than last year’s historic 21-2 team. Like all motivated winners, Lazaro is not thinking of slowing down one bit between now and the Spring season.
“I’m going to rest just two days, but then I’m going back to practice,” said Lazaro. “I want to do a mini preseason because I want to play a tournament in Spain before coming back for the Spring season.”
With the fall season done, FIU tennis won’t be back until spring when they take on the Kansas State Wildcats on Jan. 21 at 1 p.m. at the FIU tennis courts.