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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Feb. 18, 1999)
Fired-up freshman helps Huskers with 3-1 record
By Jake Bleed
Polite over-the-net handshakes.
Neat, white outfits.
Then from the far court, an exu
berant, slightly accented cry of
“Huskers baby!” turns the attention
of the crowd to a fist-pumping fresh
“Vamos!” she says.
Katarina Balan just scored anoth
NU’s No. 2 singles player has only
played in four collegiate matches
(and won three) so perhaps her anti
thetical on-court behavior is excus
able. But if the cries of “Huskers
baby” and “vamos” can be heard
when Balan is winning, other more
negative comments await the crowd
when she is not.
“I can’t take losing. I have to say
stuff on the court,” Balan said. “When
I express myself, I get really pumped
And a pumped-up Balan does
more than say stuff. Throwing rac
quets over fences or simply smashing
them into the ground was normal in
high school. Her personal best is two
smashed racquets in one day. But
since her arrival at NU, Balan has
cooled on-court antics.
“I haven’t smashed any racquets
here. I’m proud of that,” Balan said.
Balan thanked Women’s Tennis
Coach Scott Jacobson for die calmer
“Our coach is strict,” Balan said.
“He wants discipline.”
Jacobson said steady emotions
would yield consistent playing and
that he thought Balan’s game would
improve if her attitude improved.
“Tennis is such a mental game,”
Jacobson said. “Every point in a
match is a new challenge. She could
be more positive toward herself.'
That’s something that will help her in
the long run not just for tennis but for
Balan blamed European influ
ences for her behavior and said tem
per tantrums and swearing were nor
mal on European courts. Both her
father and her brother play and her
first lesson was at age 4. Balan said
her brother had professional aspira
tions as well but that his game needed
“He has like no serve,” Balan
But he does have Balan’s temper.
“He’s crazy. It’s a European
thing,” Balan said.
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They really concentrate on the athletes here.
Here everyone can tell the difference
between a student and an athlete.”
NU tennis player
She came to die United States in
1991 to play and study at the John
Newcombe Tennis Academy in New
Breufels, Texas. Balan played in indi
vidual matches in Texas and Europe
throughout high school and also spent
a year in Barcelona, playing next to
Sergio Brugera and being trained by
his father, Luis.
“I think European tennis is bet
ter,” Balan said.
The clay courts of Europe hold a
love-hate relationship for Balan.
Balls bounce slower on clay, allowing
opposing players more time to reach
them. Used to American hard-courts,
Balan said she was frustrated by how
easily opponents reached her shots.
But playing on day had other advan
“It was good. You could get all
dirty and know you worked hard,”
Unlike American tennis players,
Balan said European players do not
combine an education with tennis and
simply become professional instead.
Balan, an international business
major, said becoming a professional
was risky work and that she wanted
an education to fall back upon.
Balan came to NU after sending
off fifty applications to top-ranked
schools at the last minute. Just com
piling the paper work to apply was
tough for Balan, who spent high
school in four schools in three coun
tries. Balan said she was working
until the last minute to get everything
in on time.
But for all the application hassle,
Balan said she enjoyed playing for
NU. Just playing as a representative
of the university and with teammates
is new for the freshman who up until
this year had mostly played in indi
vidual competitions. Balan said her
first match of the year against
Southwest Missouri was her toughest
because she was so nervous at the
thought of representing the school.
She won but in three sets. Since that
first match, Coach Jacobson said he
had watched her improve match by
“Every time she plays a match,
she gets a lot better. I think she’s com
mitted to playing at a very high level,”
Balan said the attention athletes
received at NU was a definite perk for
“They really concentrate on the
athletes here,” Balan said. “Here
everyone can tell the difference
between a student and an athlete.”
Balan said she preferred playing
along the baseline and in singles
matches. Unlike doubles matches,
Balan has only herself to answer to
for her mistakes.
“I especially like it when they hit
to my forehand” Balan said.
Balan is currently 3-1 in both sin
gles and doubles.
Balan said she planned on giving
professional tennis one year after she
graduated, competing in money tour
naments in Europe, to try to make a
living at a sport she’s hardly lived
“I don’t know if I can ever quit
tennis,” Balan said.
If playing professionally does not
work out, Balan said she would con
sider coaching or looking for work in
international business. Her father
owns a international trading company
and a dairy company in Belgrade.
“It depends. If I marry an
American, maybe I’ll stay here,”
But Balan has the rest of college
to think about the future and is only
four matches into her freshman sea
son. Her immediate goals are more
“Win as many matches as I can,
work on my attitude and stay quiet on
the court and behave.”
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