Cougar tennis freshman and Moscow, Russia native Elizaveta Luzina has learned a lot about the U.S. since her arrival to Pullman this fall, but she’s yet to learn one very important word in the American university system: Freshman—she talks with a calm, almost slightly annoyed indifference when she hears the word.
“When I see her on the tennis court she doesn’t act young,” senior teammate Elisabeth Fournier said. “She puts a lot of effort out on the court but also stays relaxed. She’s also very talented and I think the most important thing is that she knows she’s talented and that’s part of being mature: knowing how talented you are and where to fit in on the team.”
Composure, work ethic, maturity and talent have boded well for Luzina so far this season. She posted a team second best 9-1 singles record this fall and a 7-2 doubles record with fellow Russian and teammate junior Liudmila Vasilieva. She hasn’t faired too shabbily this spring either, posting a 9-2 individual record and earning a No. 123 national ranking.
“She’s one of those players that you never have to tell twice. Whether it’s academically or on the court, she understands if you tell her what the drill is or what the strategy is,” Head Coach Lisa Hart said. “She’s never questioning—if you ask her to jump, she’ll ask how high.”
Part of that discipline and ability to listen to coaches comes from the nature of the Russian tennis system. Luzina had the same coach in Moscow for 10 years while she developed her game.
“I started playing back home in Russia when I was four and I still like playing it now,” Luzina laughed. “I was playing a lot of international tournaments. In Russia we don’t have tennis teams like you do here. We go to tennis class.”
At the age of 14 Luzina was ranked the No. 10 player in Russia for girls 14 and younger.
But don’t get her wrong, she doesn’t sound or play like a girl who has had the sport shoved down her throat.
“She’s just a genuine person,” Fournier said. “That sounds corny, but she really does just have this infectious quality that makes people happy. When you’re around her on or off the court you can relax with her and she’s fun and creates an atmosphere that is great for our team.”
Luzina is a fine arts major — and according to her coach — a fine student.
“I like cinematography, photography and design,” Luzina said. She, and another teammate as well as fellow Russian and fine arts major, Anastasia Romantsova are a rare combination of athlete and artist. “It’s not that common for girls who play sports to like art or girls who like art to play sports, but I guess I get my artistic side from my mother.”
Luzina’s mother, Elena, is a costume designer for the Russian theater and her father, Mikhail, is a businessman.