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Julia Elbaba - Action

– Julia Elbaba may be a native New Yorker, but the University of Virginia senior identifies just as much with the thousands of tourists as she does the locals she’s known for years.

“In my opinion, there’s no place like New York,” said Elbaba, who returns to New York on Thursday to compete in the second American Collegiate Invitational at the 2015 US Open. “I don’t know how to describe it, other than it’s the most amazing feeling coming back here for any reason at all. I always feel like a tourist whenever I come to the city. I pull out my camera and take pictures of everything.”

In addition to photographs, Elbaba is hoping to collect some hardware. Last year at the inaugural ACI tournament, she fell to fellow New Yorker and former ACC rival, Jamie Loeb, in the final. Loeb made her professional debut at the 2015 US Open after two stellar years at North Carolina, including winning the 2015 NCAA National Singles Championship.

“I’m ecstatic,” said the Oyster Bay, New York, native of competing again in the ACI. “It’s such a great opportunity that the USTA has now provided for college players to compete on the U.S. Open grounds. It gives us great exposure and letting everyone see that college players do have talent and you don’t have to skip the college experience to be a great professional tennis player.”

Since arriving on campus in Charlottesville, Elbaba has proven to be on the nation’s top singles player. She won the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Singles Championship last fall, and the now three-time ITA All-American has recorded 30-plus singles wins in each of her three seasons at Virginia. Last season she posted a 30-7 record en route to securing the No. 5 Oracle/ITA National Singles Ranking, a personal-best finish in the final rankings. Elbaba also set a new mark for the Cavaliers when she became the first player in program history to ascend to the No. 1 national singles ranking, a ranking she held in February and March.

As she embarks on her senior year, Elbaba is excited to be competing in both the ACI and next week’s 2015 Oracle/ITA Masters.

“I’m honored to be participating in such prestigious events,” said Elbaba. “This is a great way to kick off the start of my senior year.”

The ACI, which takes place Sept. 10-12 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, New York, is open only to American college players. The field, which was still being finalized by the USTA, will feature eight men and eight women. The student-athletes will compete in a single-elimination tournament, with the champions earning main-draw wild cards into the 2016 US Open if either is ranked No. 120 or better by the 2016 US Open entry deadline next summer. Otherwise, the winners will receive qualifying wild cards. The champions will also get wild cards into two USTA Pro Circuit events, while each runner-up will earn one wild card.