Julia Elbaba took a brief but important timeout this week from the first semester of her junior year at the University of Virginia. The 20-year-old from Oyster Bay couldn't turn down a chance to play in an event at the U.S. Open.
Saturday she lost in the final of the USTA's inaugural American Collegiate Invitational at the National Tennis Center. She was beaten by University of North Carolina sophomore Jamie Loeb of Ossining, New York, 7-5, 6-1.
Elbaba wants to play professional tennis. She's a media studies and French major at Virginia, intent on earning a degree if the tennis career doesn't work. She is one of the top collegiate players and was the first Cavalier to earn a seed in the NCAA Tournament in 2013.
"I definitely want to be a professional tennis player after four years and I get that degree," said Elbaba, who did not play high school tennis but played in juniors and futures events nationally and internationally. "I am using college tennis to improve my game and I chose University of Virginia because I think Mark Guilbeau and Troy Porco are the best coaches in the country and they are going to get me to the top level."
The degree is important, for very practical reasons.
"I want the degree for something to fall back on and I want to train for four years with these coaches because I need all four years to mature," Elbaba said. "I've matured so much in my two years so far."
As for studying French: "I am Lebanese and my family is from Lebanon. I can't communicate with grandmother unless I speak French."
Her father Fouad and mother Lina were in the stands for the matches. Her father is a pediatrician with an office in Garden City.
Elbaba has qualified twice for the Open junior competition, losing in the first round both times. She also qualified for the Australian Open juniors once, winning one match.
"She savored every minute of and us as well," said her mother.
Her coach was upbeat about her future. "I have complete confidence in her continued development," Guilbeau said. "And at a level that will allow her to have a very successful professional career."