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ASU women's tennis boasts strong roster with majority international players

Six out of eight players on ASU women's tennis team are international students


ASU junior Giulia Morlet serves the ball during a doubles match against USC at the Whiteman Tennis Center on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021 in Tempe.

Across ASU, you can find students from all around the world. In the 2021-22 academic year, ASU ranked as the top public university for hosting international students and its athletic department reflects this. 

Out of more than 650 student-athletes, 90 are also international students. Women’s tennis is one of the sports at ASU with the highest rate of international students, with six of their eight players being international students. 

Head coach Sheila McInerney said that while it’s not by design, ASU has done a great job at attracting international student-athletes.

“A lot of the U.S. kids want to go USC, Stanford, Cal, UCLA, you got Duke, you got North Carolina," McInerney said. "We would like to get the best Americans you can, but you also want to get the best players. There’s a lot of really good international players out there and they’ve been very successful for us over the years.” 

The tennis scene in the U.S. for college kids is much different than overseas, giving international players who come here a big-time advantage. 

“It’s important for them to come here,” McInerney said. “Over in their country either they go to college or play tennis once they graduate high school, they can’t do both. They’ve died and come to heaven when they come to the states, getting the chance to do both academics and have a really good tennis experience.” 

Domenika Turkovic, a graduate student from Croatia, reiterated that coming to the United States is a great option for foreign players.

“Tennis is very expensive so if you don’t get the chance to go play pro right away, this is a really good opportunity to get more matches, great coaching and also get a great degree,” Turkovic said.

Turkovic transferred from the University of Central Florida following her sophomore year and has no regrets about her decision. 

“I think it was a great decision for me. Tennis here is better, the coaching is better for me, it's made for specific players rather than a team as a whole,” she said. “Personally I love working with (assistant coach) Matt (Langley) individually, he’s brought my game to the next level where I didn’t think I could get it five years ago, or even three years ago.” 

Turkovic's success is gaining national attention as she and sophomore Patricija Spaka from Latvia are the No. 7 Intercollegiate Tennis Association-ranked pair in the nation. 

Chelsea Fontenel is another international student-athlete on the team. Fontenel, a freshman from Switzerland, also spoke about why she wanted to come to ASU, despite having other offers.

“Well I loved ASU, one factor because of the climate, I didn’t want to go anywhere cold,” Fontenel said with a chuckle. “I just really fell in love with the team, the way the coaches work together. I really like my teammates, we push each other every day to get better and I really wanted that for myself.” 

Both Fontenel and Turkovic needed time to adjust to the U.S., but Turkovic spoke about how she still loves America despite the differences.

“Everything is way bigger, we don’t have that many highways or big buildings or anything,” Turkovic said. “But honestly I love it, I really want to stay here after I graduate. There are so many different food options, so many facilities.” 

Turkovic wants to coach tennis after she graduates, and she believes that she has a much better chance of doing that in the U.S. rather than back in Croatia.

With only two Americans on the team, many are in similar situations trying to adjust to being far from home and the team is able to rally around each other because of it. 

“We’re all in the same boat,” Fontenel said. “We all came here for a reason and for most of us, it's far away from home. Amongst ourselves we’re friends, and we’re there for each other. It’s like a family away from family.” 

Turkovic said that everyone on the team can tell when another is going through something, and they make sure that the other know they are not alone. 

“They come on the team and they already have seven other sisters here,” McInerney said. “You’ve got the athletic department, you’ve got about 650 student-athletes so they get to know them. They’ve got this community with them and I think that really helps them feel comfortable.”

As of Feb. 1, ASU was ranked 23rd in the nation but after a victory over No. 17 San Diego on Feb. 4 and a win over SMU on Feb. 8, the Sun Devils are bound to go up in the standings, with key contributions from Fontenel, Turkovic, and the other four international student-athletes on the team. The next match is at Ohio State on Feb. 19, followed by three home matches.

Edited by Kathryn Field, Jasmine Kabiri and Caera Learmonth

Reach the reporter at and follow @RishOza_ on Twitter. 

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Rishi Oza

Sports writer

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