Nataly Tumsevica’s almost had to put on hold her goal of playing tennis in the United States.
“I had a lot of problems getting here,” said Tumsevica, a native of Riga, Latvia, the country’s capital. “I didn’t think I could make it.”
After speaking with former women’s tennis coach Gemma Alexander-Mozeak, Tumsevica thought the coach would take care of all the details required to make her a St. John’s student.
But Alexander-Mozeak resigned and it became a race to the finish for Tumsevica and her family.
“I didn’t know [if I could come to St. John’s] until the end,” the slender and golden-haired freshman said. “I got my visa on Aug. 26 and on Aug. 28 I came here.”
Scrambling to take her SAT, filling out scholarship and NCAA compliance forms, and reserving a plane ticket could not keep her from the United States and New York.
“I love it,” said the former No. 5 player under 16-years-old in Latvia. “Manhattan is the best place in the universe.
Tumsevica has been to the U.S. before. She traveled to Florida twice and competed in the Orange Bowl tournament and made it once to the finals at the Casely tournament and the semifinals of the Prince Cup.
She was also a member of the Latvian Under-18 team in 2002 and 2003.
All that tennis experience, a sport she has been playing since she was nine, helped Tumsevica earn the No. 1 singles spot at St. John’s.
“She beat out our best No. 1, Barbora [Blahutiakova practice],” head coach Allison Davidson said. “I wanted to give her a chance to prove she could get the job done.”
During the fall season, Tumsevica finished 4-4 in singles play, after getting out to a 4-1 start. Davidson is still impressed with the play of Tumsevica.
“It’s definitely her aggressiveness,” said the first year coach of what stands out in Tumsevica’s game. “She wants to win.”
But there is more to Tumsevica then her tennis racket and sneakers.
In Latvia, she learned ballet dancing, sang in national competitions at age 11, and made her own seven-song pop CD last year with her mother in a studio.
“Singing is always my passion,” the business management major said. “I sing whenever I get chance.”
The team even made her sing on the team bus once, according to Davidson.
But Tumsevica is a long way from home, the place where her earliest memories of song, dance, and tennis were made.
“Probably being away from home and [my] parent’s,” said Tumsevica of what has been the hardest thing to deal with since leaving Latvia. “Now I feel that I miss them a lot.”
On Dec. 18, Tumsevica will go back home for the first time since August.
“My mom is counting days,” she said. “I’m really, really looking forward to coming back.”