Bellevue tennis star again aims at state title
Ask a baseball player how many home runs he’s clubbed and he’ll give you a quick, decisive answer. Ask a football player how many touchdowns he’s scored and you’re sure to get a accurate account. In this statistical world, numbers are the rule and gauge of which an athletes accomplishments are assessed.
Which is why it’s surprising those types of numbers don’t mean one single iota to Bellevue junior tennis player Nikole Novikova.
Novikova, the 2006 state champion, has not lost a singles match in her tennis career at Bellevue High School. Just don’t ask her how many wins that is.
“You know, it’s just not something I keep track of,” Novikova said. “You just go out there with the intention to do your best and get a good result. It’s really our team that’s been having a good year, and that’s what I’m happy for.”
The winning streak resumed this spring after Novikova did something a year ago not too many undefeated underclassman state champions would do: she took a year off.
After winning the state championship as a freshman, Novikova decided to take a year off from school tennis to focus on schoolwork and her other USTA tennis tournaments.
“I try to play in as many tournaments as I can, but it’s hard,” she said. “It really was a challenge the first year with tournaments outside of school and I wanted to see how it was. But I really missed playing school tennis.”
In Novikova’s absence, Alexis Filliol of West Valley High School won the singles state title. Now, a year later, Novikova has another title in her sights, undefeated in singles matches again after this year’s regular season ended last week.
“The break gave me time to really know what I wanted to do with my game in a sense,” she said. “It will be interesting to see what happens.”
Calling a state run interesting – not exactly the words you’d expect to hear from someone who Bellevue coach Eric McDowell has called “probably one of the best players in state history.”
But don’t tell the junior that. There’s no complacency from Novikova, no sense of entitlement, even after a year away from the game. The junior, who hopes to attend the University of Washington on a tennis scholarship, says she understands what it takes to play with the best players in the state.
“To be a good player you have to work hard and realize there are other good players out there,” she said. “To be good amongst them, you have to push yourself. It’s really the effort you put out on the court and in practice.”
To be the best, you have to beat the best. Right now, no one has beaten Nikole Novikova.
You do the math.
Joel Willits can be reached at 425-453-4270 ext. 5060 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.