Zhukova Earns Coveted Spot in NCAA Tennis Championships
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. --- Women’s tennis player Anastasia Zhukova became the first player in UTC’s NCAA Division I history to qualify for the NCAA Tennis Championships.

The field of 64 was announced by the NCAA Wednesday night. Zhukova was one of 19 automatic qualifiers for the tournament. Any conference which had an eligible singles player who was ranked nationally among the top 125 players in the FILA ITA Collegiate Tennis rankings received one automatic bid.

The tournament will be held May 23-28 at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga.

Zhukova, a senior from Moscow, Russia, remained ranked among the top 55 players since January, when she received the highest Division I ranking in school and Southern Conference history at No. 23.

“It is great that we made it,” she said. “I have had to remain patient. This is how my collegiate career will end, and I am excited that it will finish at the NCAA Championships.

“It all came down to everyday hard work. This is my reward for all the hard work that I put in.”

Zhukova planned on sharing the news with her family in Russia, but had to wait until morning because of the nine-hour time difference.

A transfer from the University of Iowa following her sophomore season, Zhukova has compiled a two-year record of 72-9 at No. 1 singles at UTC, including a 24-2 mark this season. She only lost two SoCon matches during her career, was named the SoCon Player of the Year in 2006 and the SoCon Co-Player of the Year this season.

“This is the culmination of four years of hard work,” UTC Head Coach Tom Lowry said. “It all started at Iowa at finished at Chattanooga. She is as deserving as anybody in the draw. She belongs in the top 50.

“Her decision to come here and be the No. 1 player was a risky move. She was able to qualify for grand slams and do well in the Regionals. It is an amazing thing. She really hasn’t missed a beat. She has made the most of every event that has counted and hasn’t faltered.”

The tournament pairings will be announced May 22, the day before the event.

Zhukova is only the second SoCon female player to earn a bid to the NCAA Singles Championships. Furman’s Megan Dunnigan received a bid in the 2004 tournament and advanced to the Round of 32.

UTC was an NCAA Division II tennis power before moving up a division. The program claimed Division II National Championships in 1983, 1984 and 1985 and has produced five All-Americas.

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