Countdown: Maize and Blue for Najarian
by Clair Maciel, 2 November 2013
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Of all the notable achievements in Alexandria Najarian's junior career, including an undefeated high school record, three state titles and winning the Gold Ball at age 14, her sixth-place finish in singles (and third in doubles) at the 2012 USTA National Championships is the one that she names as her proudest achievement. To some people, sixth place might not sound like a feat that's better than an undefeated record or a championship win, but considering where Najarian was three months prior to that tournament, it's easy to see why simply competing at all was an achievement in itself.
In the spring of 2012, Najarian was hospitalized for nearly two weeks with a severe condition that had her unable to eat or drink for five days and unable to walk until she was released. But once she was back home, returning to a high level of tennis was her first priority.
"I got right back to work after my hospitalization, but the road back was tough," she said. "I was in the middle of my high school season and was having trouble staying on the court for more than 15 minutes because of my endurance. I didn't even think I would be ready in time for the national hard courts, so by the start of the tournament, I went in with less pressure than most girls, which I think helped me produce some of my best tennis. I worked the hardest I've ever worked that summer, and I had exactly the results I wanted."
It was that same attitude of positivity, commitment and discipline that the coaches of the Michigan women's tennis team saw in Najarian and prompted them to offer her a spot on their roster. Of course, it didn't take long for the Birmingham, Mich., native and lifelong Wolverine fan to accept the offer, and she has committed to playing for Michigan in the fall of 2014.
In addition to Michigan, Najarian had also considered Northwestern, Stanford and North Carolina as potential candidates in her college search. But when it came down to choosing between her final two of Michigan and Northwestern, the Blue Chip senior from Cranbrook Kingswood High School said she felt more at home at Michigan - not necessarily because of the location, but because of the comfort level surrounding all aspects of the college atmosphere, including the relaxed team dynamics.
"I knew that if I was going to play college tennis, I wanted it to be with girls who I knew I could be friends with," she said. "There are a lot of teams out there who have proven to be great by getting the top individual players in the country, but they end up being too competitive with each other. Michigan's team has proven to be a close-knit team while also achieving a top 10 ranking. Plus, in order for me to play my best, I'm more comfortable in a lower-stressed, more relaxed environment. That was definitely Michigan."
Since the age of 7, when she first picked up a racquet and took lessons alongside her younger brother, Najarian's dedication to the game has taken her all the way to reaching a national ranking of No. 62 in the USTA 18s, and the No. 1 Tennis Recruiting ranking in Michigan.