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Gubanova finds her game

by Matthew Ondesko, Owner/Publisher

Photos by: St. Bonaventure University Athletics

Anastasia Gubanova didn’t really know what to expect when stepped on the St. Bonaventure University campus last fall. A decorated high school tennis athlete, Gubanova didn’t know how much playing time she would receive, or is she would even get into matches

Gubanova not only cracked the starting lineup, but she was the Bonnies number starter for most of the season at the single spot. The fact she was able to play to get that much game experience was important to her development moving forward.

“The ability to play at one and two singles as a freshman gave me a lot of confidence. I did not have high expectations for what position I will play coming in, but being put so high up let me play against better players, therefore gaining more experience against better players,” stated Gubanova. It was me and the other freshman who played top two, so we both gave our whole effort into each match.”

While the success was there last season for Gubanova, this season started off a little rough. Gubanova just had a hard time finding her game early on at one of the top spots, because of that her coach, moved her down there lineup.

Some would see that as a demotion, Gubanova saw it as a way to discover her game again, and that’s exactly what she has done. As of press time, Gubanova has gone 4-1 at the fourth spot, and 9-13 overall at the single spot.

She has also found her game again. After struggling early on in the season (1-5 at number two), Gubanova is now on a little winning streak for herself, as the Bonnies have also found that winning formula.

“To be honest, this season did not start too great for me, I was burnt out by the fourth of fifth week. I was overwhelmed with practices and work, but that happens to me every semester right before midterms,” explained Gubanova. “Coach Bates put me at two singles because I had more experience than the two incoming freshmen, but when he saw me struggling on court he was understanding and put me at four, so I could regain my confidence which I had freshman year. Moving down was very beneficial to me and my results. With weaker players, I was able to work on my technique and controlling the points, which I could not do as well at higher positions. We have two freshmen this year that are very great players, and they are doing a good job taking the first and third spots, even with a lack of experience.”

College tennis is such a unique experience. While the players are looking to do well individually, they also have the team to think of. Whether a player wins or loses they are right back there cheering on the rest of their teammates.

Besides playing singles, Gubanova is also part of a pretty good doubles team for the Bonnies. She like the aspects of doubles, because it allows her teammate to pump her up

“I’ve been exposed to tennis being a team sport back in high school, so it wasn’t anything extraordinary. In college there are responsibilities we have as a teammate. Whether we win or lose our own match, we must go out and support our teammates,” stated Gubanova. “Doubles is always fun to play, because my partner always pumps me up, while in singles it’s just you and your thoughts. Because it’s a team sport, if many girls are doing okay during their matches, it puts less pressure on other girls who are having close matches, leading to relaxation and ability to play better.”

Gubanova is used to pressure. After all she is a student-athlete. Last semester, the sophomore took 18 credits, while still finding time for practice and matches. That kind of work load could lead to a mental breakdown.

But, Gubanova got through it. She was able to balance her time between everything she needed to do. As Gubanova says, if she could get through it, anyone can.

“I don’t find it impossible to balance sports and academics, there is always time for both. Last semester was difficult when I took 18 credits, but I made it out alive, so I think anyone can do it,” stated Gubanova. “I think I’ve trained myself to have good time management skills when I came as a freshman, because we were required to do study hall hours each week, so that helped me out this year. It can get difficult when there are away matches every weekend for several weeks in a row, and it’s difficult to study or do work in a van, but that’s why I get all my work done during the week, so during the weekends I can focus on my performance on court.”

On the court Gubanova game is about power. The sophomore has a strong serve that sets up her forehand. She has solid strokes off both sides that makes it difficult for the opposing players when she is on her game.

Like most tennis players, however, her weakness at times could bet her mental game. It seems tennis players, more than most, have a tendency too get inside their own heads. She knows at times she needs to just be able to relax and settle down and play her game.

“I would say my biggest strength is a good, fast serve and a forehand put away. When executed properly, gets me a couple points,” stated Gubanova. “The weakness I’ll have forever is the mental side of the game, whether you want it or not, you are always nervous to play, and when you start to lose, it’s very difficult to get back up. I think I’ve improved mentally since junior tennis, because there always was a pressure to win matches otherwise, I won’t get into college, but now I try my best to relax and just play my game.”

Unfortunately, the mental side of the game might be the biggest part of the game. Gubanova, like most young players, hated juniors. At 10 years old, Gubanova was playing the USTA events at 12 and 13 when her, and her family, moved from Russia.

She actually stopped playing in junior tournaments around her junior of high school and Gubanova said it was the best decision she ever made. She was already committed to St. Bonaventure, so she no longer had to worry about rankings. She was miserable playing juniors, and the cost of the tournaments didn’t help, either.

The best she has ever felt mentally on the court was last year, during her freshman season. There, Gubanova was having fun, letting her game do the taking. She was winning college matches as a freeman, which helped her believe she belonged on this type of stage.

“I’ve always had trouble with the mental aspect of this game. I hated junior tournaments partially because I had no self-confidence since I started playing at the age of 10, so when I played USTA at 12 or 13, when I moved to the US, I was behind. I think I started to actually get good around the end of my junior year of high school, senior year I decided to stop playing juniors because those tournaments just caused me stress, loss of confidence and money of course,” explained Gubanova. “By that time, I was already committed to play, so I knew that when I start playing matches again, in college, it will be for my own enjoyment and not rankings. The best mental state I’ve been in was my freshman year, because I was a rookie who played 1 and 2, winning college level matches and most importantly I did it for myself, not my parents, college recruiting or rankings. I had no expectations, and my only goal was to enjoy and play good tennis. This season was mentally tough, because I had a standard of how I played freshman year and I felt like I wasn’t living up to that standard anymore. In my defense, because of COVID, last year I don’t think we played half as many matches as we are playing this year. That would make 5 out of 8 girls who have never experienced a full season on our team. It’s frankly difficult to have 1 or 2 matches every weekend without breaks, mostly on the road too. Moving down to number 4 helped me out a lot and helped me regain some confidence.”

Only a sophomore, Gubanova still has a few years left on the court. In the last couple of years, Gubanova hopes to just continue to have fun, and work on her mental game.

As she gets ready for life after tennis, Gubanova knows the work she is putting in now, will help her in the career she wants later in life.

“Over the next two years, after this season, I want to enjoy playing as much as possible and also work on my mentality. After college I am hoping to apply to a PT school, so the mental skills I can acquire playing college tennis will help me out in life, whatever I’m going to do,” stated Gubanova. “I want to play my game every time I step on court, and also I want to learn how to be a better player, who knows maybe I’ll be a coach one day.”

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