By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
Livia Kraus may be a freshman, but on the court, she plays like anything but one.
The Austria native has made herself right at home as one of the top players in the Lady Bears’ rotation, contributing a team-high 21 wins in singles this season as well as inserting herself as a staple in the doubles rotation.
Head coach Joey Scrivano said it is Kraus’ professionalism and her attention to detail that has helped her breed so much success in her freshman season.
“Livia is an incredibly hard worker. She’s not afraid to pay the price and it’s showing in her performance. She’s behind the scenes and when no one’s watching, she’s putting in the work,” Scrivano said. “She’s very professional and she’s mature beyond her years. She walked in the door with that mentality. She understands that preparation will translate into success.”
Even with maturity and skill beyond her years, Kraus nearly didn’t make it to Waco. For a long time, Baylor wasn’t on her radar. In fact, she didn’t really see college tennis as a viable option.
But Baylor’s secret weapon was assistant coach Chris Frusci, who had been in touch and recruited Kraus while he was still the head coach at Saint Leo University in Florida.
Once Fruschi came and joined Scrivano’s staff at Baylor two years ago, he made a pitch for Kraus to come be a Lady Bear.
“I looked at the university and saw how good they were. I realized it was such a cool opportunity and I could study what I want to study and play tennis,” Kraus said. “Joey [Scrivano] came to visit me and I loved everything he said.”
Kraus has been consistent and dependable on the court for the Lady Bears this year. She is 21-6 on the season and has won her last five decisions. She’s also a perfect 11-0 at the Hurd Tennis Center and is nearly unbeatable on court six, where she is 9-1 on the season.
Kraus said she believes it’s her ability to not beat herself that makes her such a difficult opponent to face.
“I think I’m just a tough player. I don’t miss a lot. I’m very consistent and I just break my players down,” Kraus said. “I’m a tough player and I don’t beat myself. So I guess that’s one of my biggest strengths.”
Despite the success she’s had this season, it has been a learning experience for Kraus. She said that playing tennis growing up, she was able to focus on her individual game, but now she has had to develop a team mentality.
“Being with the team because tennis is more of an individual sport, so I guess that was a big adjustment,” Kraus said. “I think I’m more of a team person and not just an individual person so I really love being around a team and having people that support me and that I can support.”
Similar to her singles, that mindset has translated well into her doubles play. She’s 8-5 this season, posting a 7-4 record with sophomore Jessica Hinojosa, 1-0 with freshman Katelyn Parker and 0-1 with sophomore Camilla Abbate.
Kraus said through doubles, she has been able to work on several different shots that have helped her navigate her way on the singles circuit.
“Playing with Jess, she’s an awesome person and I love playing with her. She’s a team player and that has helped me and our team get better,” Kraus said. “I don’t think I was a great doubles player when I came here so I had to work on it. Doubles has helped me especially serving, returning and being at net. It’s also helped me more aggressive with my serve and return.”
Despite her personal success on the court, the Lady Bears sit at 12-11 overall this season and just 2-4 in conference. However, Baylor has played one of the toughest schedules in the country, posting a 6-9 record against nationally ranked opponents. The Lady Bears have wins over Miami, Fla., Ohio State and Northwestern, all of whom are in the Top 25.
Even though the team has struggled at the times this season against its difficult schedule, Kraus said she knows it’s the tough opponents that make her and the team better.
“Playing against tough opponents shows you where you are as a player and a team,” Kraus said. “Playing better players helps me improve myself and I know this is what I have to do next time to win or I did well today, so now how do I take the next step?”
For Kraus that next step might be working her way toward court one or two, but for now it’s about maintaining the course and continuing to put in the work.
“She’s not afraid to put in the work and be more consistent and right now that’s what she needs to do,” Scrivano said. “She’s just doing a great job of being incredibly consistent day in and day out and if she keeps preparing and doing the work, she can really accomplish a lot in her college career.”