In the Spotlight: #1 in the Division II Rankings, Sona Novakova and Alex Grubin

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ITA: In the Spotlight highlights the No. 1 ranked Singles players in both men's and women's Division II Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings.  Sona Novakova has been ranked No. 1 nationally her entire 08-09 season as a Freshman, while Alex Grubin in his Sophmore season has recently reclaimed the spot at No. 1  after being top-ranked in the Campbell/ITA Pre-Season rankings.  These two outstanding players have taken time from their busy schedule to sit in on this week's ITA: In the Spotlight.




Sona Novakova is a freshman at the Armstrong Atlantic State University.  Her hometown is Slapanice, Czech Republic and she is currently ranked No. 1 in women's singles in the Campbell/ITA National College Rankings and No. 7 in women's doubles with partner, Gabriella Kovacs.  Novakova ended her conference season with an undefeated 17-0 record and has been named Peach Belt Conference's Player of the Week for the 3rd time this year.

How has college tennis challenged you as an athlete?
College tennis has challenged me as an athlete in my school work for sure.  We have to travel a lot, especially now in spring.  I have to catch up with all my exams and quizzes, which is not easy, because we always come back from our trips late at night.

Favorite non-tennis activity?
Before I broke my collar bone, I definitely enjoyed skiing, but now I just like to hang out with my friends and listen to music - nothing dangerous.

Do you have any pre-match rituals/superstitions?
I don't have any right now, but when I was younger I always tried to bounce the ball twice before I started to serve.  But when I got nervous, I started to bounce the ball just once.  I decided to stop doing that because it would make me even more nervous to think about bouncing the ball once, twice, or three times.

What is your most memorable tennis experience?
In my college career so far, my most memorable experience was when we played against NAIA champion, Auburn Montgomery for the first time this semester.  I beat Delia Sescioreanu whom I had lost to last semester in the final of the ITA Small College Super Bowl.  All of the girls played very well so the coaches could not have been happier with our performance.

What's the best thing about playing for your university's team (Armstrong Atlantic)?
The best thing about playing for Armstrong Atlantic State University is being part of a great team, who is always together, whether we have a bad or good day.  The whole team, along with the coaches, are always ready to support and push each other if we need to.



Alex Grubin is a sophomore at Concordia College - New York.  His hometown is  Belgrade, Serbia.  He is currently ranked No. 1 in the Division II Campbell/ITA national men's singles rankings and No. 24 in the men's doubles with partner, Andrey Boldarev. Grubin finished his regular season 23-0 and was named a member of both the 2008 Division II Men's ITA All-Star and ITA All-American Teams. 

How has college tennis challenged you as an athlete?
There are two major challenges for me with respect to college tennis.  The first challenge is playing as part of the team.  Prior to college tennis, all of my competition was at the individual level.  I was really out there by myself and my results spoke only essentially about me.  However, as a part of the team, it is important to remember that everything I do helps or hurts my team as a whole.  At times, I may not feel at my best but the challenge is to do my absolute best and compete my hardest for the team.

The second challenge is that of balancing my academics and my athletics.  Academics are very important to me and at times is difficult for me to play at my best level when I have substantial amounts of studying to complete.  It has been a great experience for me as I have improved my time management skills tremendously.

Favorite non-tennis activity?
I very much enjoy watching movies, especially with friends.

Do you have any pre-match rituals/superstitions?
I am not sure that I have any pre-match superstitions.  However, I do not like to have an extensive warmup.  I seem to play better if my warmup is not longer than 30 minutes.

What is your most memorable tennis experience?
Last year I was invited to the US Open for the ITA All-Star Outing in New York.  I really enjoyed being there with all of the other great collegiate athletes and being able to see some friends from Serbia who are now playing on the tour. 

What's the best thing about playing for your university's team (Concordia)?
Our team at Concordia is made up of players and coaches from many different places in the world.  I have been able to get to know so many people and learn about the many cultures represented.  Also, I have come to really enjoy playing doubles.  I really didn't focus too much of my attention on the doubles game growing up in Serbia.  However, since doubles is such a big component of the match scoring here, I have to improve quickly.  Now I actually look forward to playing with a partner on the court.  Coaches Rockhill and Tarangioli have helped me so much and I thank them for that.

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