Senior Alex Vlaski is seeded eighth in the upcoming NCAA Singles Championships.
May 11, 2005
Husky senior Alex Vlaski has been a consistently dominant force on the tennis courts since he first arrived from Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Over the past four years, Vlaski has been the catalyst in taking Washington into the upper levels of collegiate tennis. At the recent Pac-10 Championships, Vlaski became the all-time singles wins leader with his 109th win, surpassing former Huskies Chet Crile and Matt Hanlin. Unfortunately, Vlaski lost in the Pac-10 finals for the third time in four years. However, a third All-American honor is now merely a formality for Vlaski who is currently ranked sixth in the nation, while as a team this year Washington captured a share of its first Pac-10 team title. This weekend, Vlaski leads the Huskies into the NCAA Championships, as they host an NCAA Regional for the first time in history. The field features UW's first round opponent, Oral Roberts, as well as USC and SMU. Vlaski recently sat down with GoHuskies.com reporter Mike Bruscas to discuss the upcoming tournament, what it means to hold the wins record, and his feelings on tourning professional.
GoHuskies.com: What was it like to break the career singles wins record?
Alex Vlaski: "At the beginning of the season the coaches told me I was close to getting the record. Taking the fall off put me more away from getting the record and I knew I had to do well in the season. The coaches didn't want to mention it at all because they knew it would probably affect my game so they didn't say anything before the tournament. But I looked in the media guide before the tournament and I knew exactly how many matches I needed to win and that was my main goal. I was so happy when I won in the semis to get the lead and I remember talking to coach (Matt Anger) as soon as I won the match I went, '109 baby!' and he said, "How did you know that?' It's something definitely special to be on the list with all those names and leading the big names."
G.H.: How tough was it to come so close to the Pac-10 title once again but fall short?
A.V.: "Three finals and one semi is a pretty good record, and I think I hold the record for most wins at the tournament. But for some reason I've never done that well in the finals. I've never played my best. Again, this final I started off and I couldn't hold my serve the whole match. I don't know why. I was playing well from the baseline but then my serving games were not good. It was kind of hard for me on the last shot but at the same time I've got to look on the bright side that I got to the finals again and not many people have done that."
G.H.: What set this team apart from your previous years?
A.V.: "I think that the strategy that made us different this year was we didn't separate any players. We know that we are all together as a team so me being at No. 1 doesn't mean anything if the No. 6 guy doesn't give 100%. Just being on the team means a lot for me no matter where I am in the line-up. But it's really fun to play against the top players in the nation. I'm really happy for the guys because everybody worked so hard to get to where we are now and hopefully we'll keep working and get to the next level."
G.H.: What does it mean to lead the team to the first Pac-10 title in program history?
A.V.: "It's amazing. My freshman year we did really well and I was really excited and the team was doing really great. And the past two years we always had good teams but we had a couple matches that affected our draws and we didn't do as well as we wanted. This year we started off with a couple of losses that we shouldn't, and then we started to figure it out and we're doing really well. For the first time winning the Pac-10 to come in my last season with two of other guys I came in with (Christoph Palmanshofer and Peter Scharler) is so cool. We are doing the best in our last season and that's the best feeling."
G.H.: How confident is the team heading into the NCAA Championships?
A.V.: "I think we are pretty excited. We know we can do well. I believe all the guys are really motivated and it's going to be a fun tournament."
G.H.: How far can the team go this year?
A.V.: "I have my desire, my dream, is to go to the Elite Eight because my freshman year I had a match point to take us to the Elite Eight and the past two years we were really close and I want to do it this year. But I don't see a reason why we can't go all the way."
G.H.: What will be the key to success in the tourney?
A.V.: "We have to start off well, doubles is crucial. We improved our doubles play but as soon as we come on the court we have to have the attitude that we can win every single match, no matter who we play. If we fight harder than the other guy from the first point to the last we can beat anybody."
G.H.: How much are you looking forward to playing professionally after this season?
A.V.: "Coaches mention to me that this is my last season and people keep telling me that. The good part about it is it's kind of a new beginning for me. I'm really excited to start playing professional tennis. That's what I've been working for my whole life and I'm going to get a chance and I can't wait. But at the same time this is something you can never get back, your last college season. And I'm trying to have the best time I can."
G.H.: How much will you miss the team aspect, given how individual a sport pro tennis is?
A.V.: "That's one part that I'm going to miss the most is being on the team and fighting together to get the wins and that's one thing that I'm never going to have again but it's been a true blast."
G.H.: What has been your favorite part about being a member of the Husky tennis team?
A.V.: "What I love about the UW team is playing the matches that really count, where I'm on the court playing a tough opponent and I look down the line-up and I see everyone's working really hard and we're all competing and supporting each other. Winning a close match with your teammates looking at you and your fans supporting you, that's the best feeling. I told everybody that our match against Cal this year when I saved five match points and we won, that made my whole college career."