Dec. 1, 2015
By Claire Kramer
Alex Lebedev is a freshman on the men’s tennis team from Island Park, New York, though his family moved to the United States from Russia in 1992. He completed his last two years of high school online, allowing him to travel to tournaments around the world and he is fluent in English, Russian and Spanish. Lebedev currently lives in Stanford Hall and is considering majors in political science and international economics. After Notre Dame, Lebedev hopes to continue his tennis career in the professional realm. He won the International Tennis Federation (ITF) 2014 Grade 4 Safina Cup in Prague and has advanced to the Round of 16 twice at the United States Tennis Association (USTA) National Championships in Kalamazoo, Michigan. After this interview, Lebedev suffered a season-ending injury and will miss his freshman campaign.
How did you start playing tennis?
My sister played in college. When she was younger she competed in local events, and my parents just decided, ‘Hey, why not?’ and that it would be good if I played, too. They kind of dragged me along, and I didn’t really love it at the beginning as much. It really started to grow on me. I started to play with her more and loved it.
What has been the best moment of your tennis career thus far?
Advancing to the Round of 16 at Kalamazoo in 2013. That was one of the defining moments of my junior career. I played a bunch of really gritty matches, and that was when I started talking to the coaches here at Notre Dame. I had another good run this year. I played two three-set matches, and I had a bye, and then I played Francis Tiafoe. He’s the up-and-coming American star. I had a really close match with him – [losing] 6-4, 6-4 – and showed that I can compete at a really high level.
What was doing junior and senior year of high school online like?
It was tough. It’s not as tough as this [college], but you really have to be disciplined with your time.
What’s your favorite part about Stanford?
To be honest, I’m not in the dorm much, but I think it’s nice to be close to all of the main locations. The library and Basilica are just a walk away, and St. Joseph’s Lake is behind Stanford. I’m right next to the the dining hall, so I think the location is not bad.
What’s been your favorite moment on campus so far?
I have a few. I was running one night around the lakes, and it’s awesome to see the Golden Dome, all the lights and the pink-purple sky. It was just really beautiful. Also, during practice, since we’re right next to the stadium and the football practice facility, we always hear the songs that they play. I was practicing the other day, and they started playing the Victory March and the national anthem. It was inspiring.
What is your best dining hall creation?
It has to be the South Dining Hall stir fry. I get chinese noodles, chicken, Szechuan sauce and vegetables.
How does being trilingual impact your life?
I consider myself fluent in Russian and Spanish, but it’s not about bragging rights. It’s being able to go somewhere and know you can get by, that you can talk to the locals or go to the store if you’re in Spain. If you need to talk with someone casually, it’s very low-key, and it makes it easier to get around. I feel like when you talk with people in their native language, it lets their guard down, and it’s easy, rather than trying to get through in broken English.
After a possible professional tennis career, what do you see yourself doing?
Playing high-stakes poker, traveling to Europe and Australia, owning my own business and getting involved in politics.
What is your favorite TV show?
Breaking Bad and Impractical Jokers
What is your spirit animal and why?
Probably an octopus – they have many arms, and I like to get involved in many things and influence many people. They’re also social and very intelligent.
Do you have a favorite Russian or Spanish phrase?
“ÃƒÃƒÂµ ÃƒÂ¿yÃƒ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ÃƒÂ¾, ÃƒÃƒÂµ ÃƒÂ¿ÃƒÂµÃƒ’Ã¢’Â¬ÃƒÂ°, ÃƒÃ…Â¡ Ãƒ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒ”ÃƒÂ¾Ãƒ’Ã¢’Â¬Ãƒ”y” – It means ‘good luck, give your best.’ It’s basically to ward off evil spirits and superstition, so as to not “jinx” your performance. Before tennis matches, I would say the first phrase, my mom would say the second and my dad would say the last one.