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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Tennis duo transfer from Southeast to Southwest

Rodney Haas / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Georgia transfers Borja Malo, left and Alexandrina Naydenova, right. Transfered from the University of Georgia and so far this year are undefeated in both singles and doubles play.
Rodney Haas
Rodney Haas / Arizona Daily Wildcat Georgia transfers Borja Malo, left and Alexandrina Naydenova, right. Transfered from the University of Georgia and so far this year are undefeated in both singles and doubles play.

There are more than 300 NCAA Division I schools in the United States. What are the odds that two international students, one from Bulgaria and one from Chile, would choose to attend the same Division I university for tennis, and then unknowingly transfer to another during the same semester? Apparently, those odds are pretty good.

The UA received two new tennis players this semester as transfers from the University of Georgia: Men’s player junior Borja Malo and women’s player freshman Alexandrina Naydenova.

“”She told me she was coming here and it was a big surprise,”” said Malo of his former Georgia teammate. “”It’s kind of funny it happened that way, with the same universities and all.””    

Malo, originally from Chile, played for a year at Georgia after joining the squad in January 2009. In his only season with the team, the Bulldogs compiled a 25-4 record, made an NCAA Elite Eight appearance and finished the season as the nation’s No. 6-ranked squad.

Naydenova came not long after Malo, enrolling for the start of the fall 2009 semester in a Georgia team that finished the previous season at No. 3 in the country. So why choose Arizona over a team that is normally a national powerhouse? Both Malo and Naydenova had their reasons.

“”I wasn’t really playing in the tournaments at Georgia,”” Naydenova said. “”That’s why I came here. And I really like the coach and the program here.

“”The weather was also really nice,”” she added. “”Nothing like Georgia. I want this all year round.””

While Malo agreed about the weather, his decision to transfer was not based on playing time. He was extremely pleased with the Georgia program, his teammates and his coaches and the entire situation. But the deciding factor was his scholarship.

“”My scholarship wasn’t the same as the one they offered me here,”” Malo said. “”I came in a recruitment trip and I liked it a lot. It was the same atmosphere I had in Georgia and I decided, for me, it was the best thing to come here.””

Because it was a mutual release — both Georgia and Malo were OK with him transferring — it allowed him to continue playing instead of sitting out a year because of the transfer.

Malo also had another incentive to come to Arizona: Reuniting with childhood friend Andres Arango — currently a senior on the men’s team and native of Ecuador.

When traveling around South America at a young age for tennis, both Arango and Malo met at a match and have continued their friendship until this day. They are even roommates here in Tucson.

“”I always talked with him and when I told him my situation, he helped me to talk with the coaches here,”” Malo said. “”He was a big influence.””

Naydenova, on the other hand, was looking for a team outside the Southeastern Conference so she wouldn’t have to sit out a year due to transfer regulations. This led her to the West Coast. She came to UA on a recruitment trip and couldn’t say no.

Both have faced difficulties though, Naydenova more than Malo. She is still only 17, and just this past July, she was still living in Bulgaria. She misses her family, but she still gets to see them every semester.

At Georgia, both tennis teams practiced together, which allowed the two to become acquainted in her first semester there. But neither knew about each other’s plans to transfer to the desert.

Both are incredibly pleased with their situation at Arizona, as are their coaches. Both players are expected to make an immediate impact. Last weekend, Naydenova went 2-0 in her singles matches, and Malo won his only match.

“”Just the guys knowing he has that experience and having played for the upper programs in the country, he knows what it’s about,””said men’s head coach Tad Berkowitz said. “”We have a lot of confidence in him when we play our tougher matches.””

“”We anticipate Alex playing in the top three (for singles),”” said women’s head coach Vicky Maes. “”While we’re not expecting her to play her best tennis now after not practicing much last semester, we expect her to start playing better after she has extra time on the court and in the weight room.””

On the other side of the court, both players are extremely pleased with their new programs and head coaches.

“”I think I have better communication when there’s a woman coaching the team,”” said Naydenova. “”I really get along well with (Maes) and I think she’s a great person. She trains us very well and she knows what she’s doing.””

Malo said that the first thing that stood out to him was how the coaches helped with the transfer.

“”There’s a lot of paperwork and everyone has been with me and I’m so happy of my decision,”” Malo said. “”I just love it here.””


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