July 27, 2011
Arlington, Texas -
By Art Garcia for UTAMavs.com
Daiana Negreanu is on her way in professional tennis. It promises to be a long and difficult road, but she knows that and is prepared to put in the work.
Negreanu did just that at UT Arlington.
"She can go as far as she wants," Mavericks coach Diego Benitez said. "She has the game to dominate on the tour. She has the capability of making a serious living out of this. She's still young and has a great game. She's long and has every shot in the book. She is going to take this as far as she wants to go."
Negreanu, 23, completed her UTA singles career in the Southland Conference finals and helped the team reach the first round of the NCAA's. After going home to Romania for a couple of weeks, she returned to Arlington this summer to begin training for her pro debut.
Negreanu qualified for the singles draw in her first two tournaments is in the midst of an early breakthrough. She's currently in the quarterfinals of the Women's Hospital Classic in Evansville, Indiana, having defeated the tourney's No. 2 ranked player along the way.
The reigning 2011 SLC Player of the Year is quick to credit her time at UTA as a springboard to her solid play thus far.
"The work I did throughout last year and this year, we played a lot of matches and that helped a lot," Negreanu said. "Even though these are my first tournaments, I played a lot during the season and I played No. 1, so all my matches were really tough.
"And I kept practicing and didn't stop. I didn't stop for a break. I kept playing every day. For sure I want to keep playing because it's going well so far."
Benitez isn't surprised by her success. He saw it coming.
"The experience she gathered four years playing in college is paying off," Benitez said. "That's huge because when you play in college there's a lot of pressure. You have the pressure of your school, your coaches, your teammates and she has learned how to deal with that kind of pressure. She's learned from playing so many matches in college that now she doesn't have that pressure. She plays with more freedom and she's getting all that experience. She's developed her game to a level to compete on the pro tour.
"We're very excited and very proud because it usually takes about eight months to a year to get into the main draw and she did it in her second tournament. She told me during the season after she finished her career she was going to play pro. That was her goal and she was determined to do it, and so far she's done it."
Benitez added that Negreanu's four-year career at UTA is an example to current and future Mavericks of what can be accomplished through hard work and perseverance.
"That's what Daiana is doing," Benitez said. "It's great for our program going into the WAC. It shows recruits that this is one of the best ways to go. Come get your education, develop your game in college and if you play up to your abilities then maybe you have a shot to go pro."
Negreanu is off to an impressive start, yet is hardly satisfied. Her current goals include securing a WTA ranking, which she said requires getting past the opening round in at least three tournaments. (She's done it once.) She's driven to develop all facets of her game.
"Everything is improvement," Negreanu said. "I will definitely work. I'm much more mature than before in my game mentally and physically. Playing pro has been a great experience. I think it's helped a lot. I grew a lot this year. It's a different experience to play for a team than to play for yourself."
Negreanu's budding career might lead her to tournaments in Brazil and Bolivia in the next few months. She also plans to compete in Europe next year. For now, though, she'll continue to live and train in Arlington. She has one class to go before earning here UTA degree in August.
Asked how far she may go in tennis, Negreanu is careful not to get too far ahead of herself or set unrealistic expectations.
"I just want to have fun and see what happens," she said. "I'm not going to put pressure on myself. I really enjoy playing, so I'll see what happens. Of course I want to do as far as I can. We'll see how it goes. Right now it's going great. I'm really enjoying myself right now on the court and that's the most important thing."