The top collegiate women’s tennis player in the country is a Tiger.
On March 9, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) released the Division I National rankings for both women’s teams and individuals. The team ranking of No. 58 for the Tigers was relatively disappointing, having lost several tight matches at the start of the season that could’ve gone either way, hence standing at a 4–9 overall win/loss record.
The individual rankings, however, were what made the Princeton community exceedingly proud. Right at the top, above world-class and talented players across the nation, sat Daria Frayman, a junior at Princeton, who started the season completely unranked.
Frayman had the perfect start to the season, winning ITA Northeast Super Regionals Singles & Doubles Championships with fellow Princeton junior Grace Joyce. She followed this up with a fantastic ITA Fall Nationals tournament, finishing runner-up in singles. Over this season alone, Frayman has defeated 15 ranked opponents so far, including five ranked within the top-15 nationwide.
In an interview with The Daily Princetonian, Frayman said that this achievement was never her main goal this season.
“After a long break due to COVID — missing one and a half seasons — all I wanted was to get out there and just enjoy myself and try to do the best I can for the team,” she said.
Frayman’s transformation from two years ago to now is nothing short of remarkable. Having just managed a peak No. 103 ranking in March 2020 to now reaching the best ranking possible, the work she put in during the pandemic definitely paid dividends.
“My main goal was to be a little more offensive and make sure to step in (towards the net) whenever I could. By doing this I was able to enjoy myself and simultaneously play my best game,” she said.
“I don’t have perfect play like Roger Federer or an incredible physique like Rafael Nadal,” she added, laughing. “But my mental goal is just to fight till the end and give my whole heart to the game.”
Frayman’s achievement was an individual feat, but she told the ‘Prince’ that the support her team has provided keeps that motivation pumping.
“My team is always there for me mentally; always encouraging and simple things like checking in and congratulating me for small achievements,” she said. “It all builds up trust and keeps the team and I positive.”
Her doubles partnership and chemistry with Joyce has been a constant since two summers ago and has delivered some fantastic results this season, too.
“We really feel each other on the court and support each other mentally, which is a big component of the game,” Frayman noted.
Having taken a small hiatus from performing for the team since February this year, Frayman seems to be on her way back to the court.
“I started practicing a week ago and so I’m really hoping to be back for our next home match against Old Dominion in a week and a half,” she said.
Although it has been a difficult season for the Tigers on several levels, there are definitely silver linings that keep the team hopeful for the future. These include first-year Victoria Hu playing exceedingly well as Princeton’s No. 1 seed in Frayman’s absence, coming in at No. 21 in the national rankings. Similarly, sophomore Neha Velaga recently scored a win against a top-40 opponent, giving fantastic signs for the future.
“Our main goal is to keep being positive, not give up, and just stay strong as a unit,” she said. “It’s also important we don’t forget the massive amount of stress on our shoulders because we’re in a very strong academic school.”
Frayman and this promising women’s team will take on Old Dominion next Friday, March 25 at the Cordish Family Pavilion and Lenz Tennis Center.
Vedant Shah is a contributor to the Sports section at the 'Prince.' He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @VedantS67190694.