Twin Smirnova sisters deliver with talent, experience
Originally from Russia, sophomore tennis players Anastasia and Victoria Smirnova are twin sisters, and both have been playing tennis with their family since they were six years old. Though the Smirnovas’ parents were athletes themselves, they played a slightly different sport: table tennis. Their father was ranked as high as No. 11 in the world in table tennis and participated in three different Olympic Games; similarly, their mother played table tennis as a member of the Russian junior national table tennis team.
According to Anastasia, she and her sister moved to Belgium due to their father’s job changing locations.
“Our dad got a contract first in Germany, and then from Germany, he got another contract in Belgium, so we moved to Belgium,” Anastasia said.
Both Smirnova sisters won the Belgian Winter Cup under-16 tennis title: Victoria won it in 2012 and Anastasia won it in 2013. But Victoria said she didn’t think it was possible for either sister to play collegiate tennis in the United States. A message from a college coach eventually sparked her and her twin sister’s interest in playing in the United States, according to Victoria.
“We definitely didn’t know we had this opportunity,” Victoria said. “A [college] coach texted me on Facebook asking if I wanted to play college tennis and I started looking [it] up and definitely thought it was a great opportunity.”
According to Victoria, transitioning from life in Belgium to the tennis culture at Rice was a relatively easy adjustment.
“It was kind of easy because I had my sister so it was fine,” Victoria said. “And we have a great team and a great coach so the transition was easy.”
Both Victoria and Anastasia have capitalized on that opportunity. Last season, Victoria led the Rice women’s tennis team with 25 singles wins. Additionally, she finished with an unbeaten record in three matches at the Conference USA Championship in both singles and doubles. Meanwhile, Anastasia finished with 17 singles wins last season, which marked the fourth-most in singles play on the team.
Both sisters were named to the All C-USA Singles first team. In doubles, Victoria compiled 22 wins and Anastasia earned 21 wins, including 20 wins playing alongside current senior Priya Niezgoda. According to Anastasia, developing a bond on the court and strong chemistry with Niezgoda took very little time.
“I think we really clicked from the first match,” Anastasia said. “We play well together and we kept building our game together so we had a really good doubles [pair].”
While one may expect head coach Elizabeth Schmidt to pair Anastasia and Victoria together in doubles play, the twins play separately. However, the Smirnova twins have maximized their time together in other ways. For example, both sisters are majoring in sport management and are also rooming together at McMurtry College. According to Victoria, though the twins occasionally experience conflict, it’s never too serious.
“We are used to it,” Victoria said. “Sometimes we do get mad at each other, but it’s not something serious because we spend so much time together on the court and off the court.”
Both sisters finished last spring season on high notes. Anastasia Smirnova won nine of her last 12 singles decisions in the spring and Victoria Smirnova won her last seven. The sisters will both look to continue those winning streaks in the spring of 2020 at Rice’s George R. Brown Tennis Center.
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