Smith: Tennis in the Genes
IRVINE: Senior Kristina Smith played her last tennis match of a stellar collegiate career this past Sunday.
Tennis runs in the family for UC Irvine’s senior tennis star Kristina Smith.
Both of Smith’s parents excelled in the game and played tennis at the collegiate level. Her mother once represented UCI at the 1983 NCAA Divison I tennis tournament.
Smith’s collegiate tennis career took off as an Anteater. Over the past three years, Smith and her differing partners have received the All-Big West honorable mention in doubles. Last year, she was named All-Big West first team in singles in addition to being a Scholar Athlete.
This year, Smith ranked No. 88 nationally in singles, playing on a team that’s ranked No. 31 in the nation. Smith also received Big West Player of the Year and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for singles and doubles.
“This is the first year that I have been ranked in either category, so that was a huge deal for me,” Smith said. “So much has gone into achieving these things. The first step was setting up these goals for me and then coming up with a plan that would give me the best chance at succeeding.”
As far as the NCAA Tournament goes, Smith is working on specifics in order to ensure positive outcomes at the tournament.
She’s working on her footwork, grinding out points in singles and being active at the net in doubles, while staying aggressive at the baseline.
Before matches, Smith goes on YouTube to watch short videos of professionals practicing, her favorite being Victoria Azarenka. The videos help her visualize the way she wants to play.
Smith’s biggest obstacle is juggling all of her responsibilities on and off the court.
“For the most part, my professors have been incredibly understanding and supportive when I have to miss class for tennis,” Smith said. “But it is hard trying to manage everything and trying to give equal maximum effort to every area.”
Smith credits her time management skills as key to maintaining control of her work in the classroom, while prioritizing her daily duties.
Like all great athletes, Smith could not achieve her level of success alone. Aside from her tennis-savvy family, assistant coach Dianne Matias has worked with her closely and has helped develop her game.
“Surrounding myself with people who believe in me and are as committed to my goals as I am has also been a huge part of it too,” Smith said.
Commitment and hard work seem to be central themes in Smith’s life. She admits to putting in extra hours on the court outside of the mandatory practices and workouts. These extra hours, she believes, have really made the difference in her career.
Smith thinks back to winning the Big West Conference Tournament her freshmen year and making it to the NCAA tournament this year as a team and individually, as her two fondest moments as an Anteater.
For Smith, having lost in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, now is a time for reflection to look back at the past four years of memories, friendships, and the ups and downs of being a collegiate athlete.
Though she is a senior, Smith’s career is far from over. She plans to travel to Germany and play on a club team with doubles teammate Franziska Goettsching.
Smith then plans to travel wherever professional tennis takes her.
“Tennis has taught me to think big,” Smith said. “It’s about wanting something bad enough and then being willing to put in the hard work to attain it. It’s important to have goals in anything you do.”