Watch Listen Up: Interview With Alexa Graham of #1 UNC Women's Tennis

Get better at the sports you play and the life you lead at STACK. Improve your training, nutrition and lifestyle with daily

Alexa Graham of #1 UNC Women's tennis joins Bailey for another tennis edition of Listen Up. They talk about growing up on the East Coast and what the experience was like going from New York to North Carolina. UNC is persistently in the top-10 of college tennis, and Bailey asks Alexa what separates the Tar Heels from the rest. We also hear about Alexa's per-serve rituals and how she and the rest of the team fed off the cancellation of last season and used it to get to an 11-0 start in 2021. This is one you don't want to miss.

 

 

Read More >>

Alexa Graham of #1 UNC Women's tennis joins Bailey for another tennis edition of Listen Up. They talk about growing up on the East Coast and what the experience was like going from New York to North Carolina. UNC is persistently in the top-10 of college tennis, and Bailey asks Alexa what separates the Tar Heels from the rest. We also hear about Alexa's per-serve rituals and how she and the rest of the team fed off the cancellation of last season and used it to get to an 11-0 start in 2021. This is one you don't want to miss.

 

 

Video Transcript Below

 

Bailey:
Right. Okay, here we go. I love her one. We're back for another great episode of Listen Up. And today we are joined by Alexa Graham. One of the heartbeats of the UNC women's tennis team. Alexa, thank you for taking the time to come to the program.

Alexa Graham:
Hi, thank you for having me.

Bailey:
So let's start with what life has been like on Chapel Hill. What'd you do the past few weeks? What are you up to? Not on the tennis court.

Alexa:
Well, things are slowly getting back to normal. Our governor just lifted some regulations and stuff with restaurants and everything. So it's starting to feel a little more normal. We're back in class in school. So I'm going to school, which is weird. Cause I haven't done that in like a year. But other than that, pretty normal, just practicing, studying focused on the season.

Bailey:
Now as a West Coast guy, myself coming off of Syracuse, I was a little bit curious, I guess you could say about the weather and you're from garden city, New York, correct? Yes. And that's on Long Island? Yes. Okay. So do you like or love snow?

Alexa Graham:
I love snow, but I don't like cold. So when it's cold here and I'm not going to get the snow, like I'm miserable. Like if it's going to be cold, I want it to really be winter. Like North Carolina has this like half winter thing and I don't really like it.

Bailey:
So, yeah. So I was curious about the adaptation from New York to North Carolina. Is there many differences in the weather? I mean, it's still pretty much on the East Coast.

Alexa:
Yeah. I mean, it's pretty hot in the summer, but I mean, it's hot at home too in the summer, but what drives me nuts is like when we moved to outdoor tennis and it's like not hot, but it's not cold enough to be inside. They have a very long like almost winter or almost spring, like just kind of in the middle,

Bailey:
Growing up in Garden City. Did you go to Manhattan a lot? Did you go to the city?

Alexa:
Yeah, definitely. I'm one of the first stops train stops in long Island. So I'm just a short ride on the Long Island railroad. So I love the city. I love Manhattan even now. Like I have a few friends who live in the city and I go all the time and visit them. Is that

Bailey:
Somewhere you could potentially see yourself living, down the line?

Alexa:O
h yeah. Like if, if New York opens up and stuff, but it's, it's really fun. It's a fun place. And it's close to my family.

Bailey:
Take us back to the early Alexa tennis days. How did you start playing tennis? Does your family play tennis? When did you and tennis first crop?

Alexa:
I started when I was about seven or eight. No one in my family plays, but my parents were putting me in sports that I could play for a lifetime. So I went into golf, swimming, tennis. At first, I didn't like any of them, but golf was a little too slow for me and swimming head swim meets at like 6:00 AM. So the one I stuck with of the three was tennis and ended up really liking it. And here I am.

Bailey:
At what age did you realize you could potentially take it to the next level or were better than a lot of your peers?

Alexa:
I wanna say at like 11 or 12, like I still wasn't playing nearly as much as my peers and my competitors and I was competing with them. So I just was like, if I commit myself to this, if I go full time with this, I could be pretty good.

Bailey:
Now, what was the tennis high school culture like in New York? Was the competition pretty fierce that a lot of people play tennis?

Alexa:
Not a lot of people in any one specific hometown. I wouldn't say plays tennis, but there's always one person out of like each hometown on long Island. That's pretty good at tennis. So I did, I played one season of high school tennis and I got a few good matches. You know, there are a few good girls on Long Island, but there are times when you play with different schools that don't have the best players. But it was really fun and it really prepped me for college tennis.

Bailey:
Now, why UNC was that always something in the back of your mind going through high school go into UNC, or did it just so happened that you got an offer and visited and loved it?

Alexa:
It definitely wasn't in my mind, honestly, I don't like it in the Northeast, like I never would have thought of going to North Carolina. I always planned on staying in the Northeast, but our coach fry and he's just amazing and they have such a great program and the academics are incredible. So just to be, to come here, I saw their practice on a visit. And so I, how their team was just one big family. Like literally just, they were so happy to be there with each other and hitting with each other that this was my favorite place I had to commit.

Bailey:
Well, speaking of academics, as you touched on, let's talk about Alexa in the classroom. You're double majoring in political science and media and journalism, correct? Yes. Okay. What made you decide on journalism?

Alexa:
Well, I've always like loved broadcasting. But the first journalism class that I took my sophomore year, it was all writing. It was like a writing journalism class. It was one of the staple classes that you have to take. And that was the first one I took it. I was like, I can't do this. Like I don't want to write, but then I realized that it was one class. There's more to it. You have to go through the school through the program. So when I came back for the extra year, this whole year has been devoted to me finishing the journalism degree. Now,

Bailey:
Have you put together any stories? Do you like storytelling?

Alexa:
Yeah. I work on our school sports show and it's fun. It's, it's a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun too. And I've had some awesome teachers and some really great classes. So it really makes me regret it and do this from the beginning.

Bailey:
Now, did they only ask you for your tennis analytics or do they let you talk about other sports?

Alexa:
No. I'm allowed to talk about other sports too.

Bailey:
That's good. I'm curious on when you found out, speaking of coming back for this other season when did you find out that this last season was going to be canceled and where were you?

Alexa:
This is a funny story because my team, we, like you could say my team was at their peak. Like we were doing well on the core. Like we were in The Bahamas for spring break that our coach, lets us pick up a spring break trip every year. And I was one of the seniors and the seniors pick. So, of course, we choose The Bahamas and we were in this beautiful resort and we're all in the pool. And we see on our phones like the sec is canceling, the MBA's canceling March madness was canceled and we're like, this is not looking good. So we were literally in the most perfect place and got the worst news possible.

Bailey:
Okay. To backtrack a little bit. So you, the seniors get to decide or where you guys go spring break. Where were the other places you guys went to? Besides the h Bahamas

Alexa:
We were supposed to go to Puerto Rico one year, but because of the hurricane had to go to Del Ray, I think we went we've gone to Disney, we've gone to Charleston, but my, my class really went for it with The Bahamas trip.

Bailey:
I was about to say, that's a that's shooting for the stars out there. And I feel like that's a great team bonding experience too, traveling outside the States, getting just outside of the tennis bubble a little bit. And I mean The Bahamas, you can't beat the pool and the weather. Okay.

Alexa:
Oh, for sure. It was a great place to relax for a week and just kind of reset before we finished our season.

Bailey:
So when did you find out that the NCAA was going to allow you another year of eligibility and did you know immediately that you were going to run it back?

Alexa:
Well, when they first canceled everything, they put out this very vague tweet about potentially giving seniors their eligible eligibility back for that year. And so we all saw that and like kind of had hoped like we didn't make any major decisions for the next year. Cause we kind of had hope that they're going to give us this year back. And I want to say a month or two later they did right before graduation. So I withdrew my graduation application and got in touch with the journalism school immediately and added the major. But I think for us, for us three seniors, it was, we're all going to go back and do this. Or at least for me, I didn't want to do it if we weren't all going to do it. So now we're here. We all live together and we're all really happy we're here.

Bailey:
Now I'm curious about the atmosphere of the team. I mean, you guys are 11 and Oh this year have won 10 ACC Championships and program history has always some of the top-ranked players in the country. What are practices like?

Alexa:
Well, right now practices are a little weird cause we, we aren't together every day because they try to make the groups smaller. So there's not 13 girls on three courts in the middle of a pandemic, but once or twice a week, we do get to all be together at practice. And it's just so fun. I mean, we're all super serious, but we all can take a joke and laugh in the middle. And it's like going out and playing your favorite sport with your best friends. So I love going to practice every day

Bailey:
Now, obviously, it's, everything's altered for the pandemic and social distancing, but what do you guys do for fun? Do you guys do any kind of team bonding experiences? Do you guys all get together socially distance or is everyone kind of just in their rooms at practice, going to school at practice?

Alexa:
I mean, we do see a lot of each other by the end of the day. I mean, we have conditioning, we have tennis like we, so we would hang out, I guess you could say at practice or fitness quite a bit. But we, our building have a courtyard and stuff, so sometimes we'll get together outside and just hang out. Maybe bring in dinner. Coach has brought in dinner to the tennis center and how to sit outside so we can all have dinner together. And honestly, a lot of us live with each other. So we, we see a good bit of each other. No,

Bailey:
This is what I'm also curious about. Give us a new rule or adjustment that had to be implemented for COVID protocols that took some time getting used to whether it's on the court or off the court.

Alexa:
Oh gosh. I would say wearing our mask all our whole like workout session in the weight room because we wear a mask to the tennis center, like while we're in the locker room and stuff, but when we're on the court, we take it off. But when we're in the weight room and we're doing stuff, we have to leave the mask on the whole time. And it just gets to the point where you realize it's bothering you and you just, you don't want to wear it anymore, but it takes adjusting to, but where we're used to it by now and we're handling it

Bailey:
Now as a self-proclaimed summer kid, tennis high school camp, counselor myself. I usually tell them when we're serving, you have to have somewhat of a pre-service ritual to keep you in rhythm. So every serve doesn't feel like it's different. Every feels Sur sort of like it's the same. Do you have a serve ritual?

Alexa:
Yeah, I just pretty simple three bounces.

Bailey:
That's it?

Alexa:
No, if I, if I'm okay if I miss bounds or something, I have to start over, but it's always three. It's always been three.

Bailey:
Now, what about if you're down a breakpoint and you know, you've got to get this point back. Do you have something that goes through your mind? Do you think about it in that situation or do you just treat it like any other points?

Alexa:
I mean, I don't want to be careless during the point and just go for some crazy shot that maybe I'd go for if I'm up 40 love, but at the same time, I don't want to get in my head that I'm down breakpoint and I need to, I need to win this point. So I just kind of, I guess, played the same. I try to make my first serve, stay aggressive and be consistent to take us back

Bailey
To the ITA National Indoor Championship back in November. When did you know you were going to win?

Alexa:
I don't know if I knew I was gonna win. I knew Abby, she was a fighter. She wasn't going to hand it to me. But for my first tournament in eight months, maybe I was feeling pretty good all week. I was excited to be there and it was less about I'm playing this huge tournament and more about, Oh my gosh, I'm playing a tournament again. So it was just a really great week I was playing well and I was super happy to be back the whole time.

Bailey:
All right. Finally, let's end on a two-part question first. What are your goals for the end of this year?

Alexa:
Well, I would love to win a team NCAA title. It's something our team has never done and we work super hard and I know that's everyone's goal is like winning endorse was great. Winning ACC would be great, but we all want that NCA title.

Bailey:
And now what are your goals for your tennis career? Are you thinking about playing tennis professionally after you're done at UNC? Or what if you get really some good grades in journalism? Do you think you might pursue that a little bit?

Alexa:
I'll definitely pursue professional tennis once I'm graduated, I've thought about it extensively. And in the middle of the season last year, I was just about ready to take a full-time job. But this year and how tennis was taken from me for so long with the pandemic has really opened my eyes of like, I'm not, I'm not done. I don't want to stop yet. I can get a job a few years down the road.

Bailey:
Well, it's going to be really exciting to see. And you guys are off to the hottest star best team in the country right now. So we look forward to keeping in contact and watching your test journey. Continue. Alexa, thank you for taking the time today. Thank you so much.

 


Topics: TENNIS | INTERVIEWS | LISTEN UP