Moldova's Katie Vasenina plays No. 1 for the University of South Florida womens' tennis team.

From Moldova with love: USF’s Katie Vasenina a hit on the court

Eastern European import making a new life overseas as a tennis player

TAMPA, FL — You would think a teenager from Moldova would give a multitude of reasons when discussing the hardest part of moving thousands of mile overseas.

For 20-year-old Katie Vasenina there are only two answers – food and the language.

“When I came here my English was so bad. I couldn’t even express myself and when I was taking the classes it was so hard because I couldn’t even understand what the professor was saying,” Vasenina said, lounging on the bleachers after a grueling home match where she lost both her doubles and singles matches.

“The second one was the food. You could eat huge amounts of food in Moldova and you would stay skinny, but here you eat the same amount of food and you gain so much weight. I got so fat.”

It’s hard to believe that the striking Kim Bassinger ringer could ever be fat. With her pale blonde hair and blue eyes, it’s no wonder that guys tend to linger around after her matches.

She doesn’t have time for dates, though.

Not only is she the No. 1-ranked player for the University of South Florida, but she’s currently working on her Masters in Global Sustainability after fast-tracking her undergraduate degree in three years.

Vasenina just accepted a job next year as a research assistant for her graduate program.

Did we mention she’s only 20?

“I have a passion for the environment and I really hope it’s possible to make this world better and change climate change. I read about it [her program] and the classes that were there were really interesting, and the director of the program is top 20 in the whole world,” she said.

Last season?

However, this may be the last year that she plays.

After a stellar senior performance this year that placed her as the 29th-ranked woman player in Division I, according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, Vasenina said it might be time to trade her racket for research studies.

“Lately I have too many injuries and I feel I’m not doing as well. It’s just too many things. Next year they’ll give me a job as director of operations so I’ll be organizing the tennis tournaments for the team and working along as a graduate assistant for research,” she said.

Vasenina has an easy charm about her – a casual way of talking that defies her youth. It’s easy to see how she’s been so successful in an entirely new country, make that continent.

Vasenina has triple citizenship. Her mother is Russian, she was born in Moldova, and her father is American, so wherever she chooses to pursue her career after her studies, she’ll face minimal barriers.

“I won’t have to marry anyone,” she said with a mischievous grin.