The Florida State women’s tennis team has returned to the courts with an impressive first month to the season. FSU has knocked off No. 21 Florida, for a fourth straight season, and lost at No. 7 Georgia in a tight match, 4-3.
What was going to be a deep and talented Seminoles lineup in 2021 was strengthened by the arrival of Giulia Pairone, who had been an All-SEC pick (early in her career at Arkansas) and the last two years as an All-Big Ten selection (at Michigan).
“It was a tough decision,” Pairone said. “When COVID hit everything was up in the air. I didn’t know if the NCAA was going to give us the year back. I got on the portal and a lot of people were trying to recruit me. I thought this was going to be a really good place to finish my tennis career. And they had the grad program (sports psychology) that I wanted to do. That was a big part of my decision.”
Academics and tennis made FSU the ideal pick for Pairone. Warmer weather didn’t hurt either as the native of Turin, Italy, found the Michigan winters to be long and difficult. She has also fit in quite well at FSU.
Pairone is 6-1 in singles and has competed in doubles with various teammates, including a 4-1 mark with Emmanuelle Salas. Nandini Das is also 4-1 in singles, including a 2-1 mark at the No. 2 position. Petra Hule also is 3-2.
The Seminoles now begin ACC competition, playing at Clemson on Saturday and at Georgia Tech on Sunday. As FSU’s top singles player, Pairone is a leader and brings emotion to the court that she hopes not only sparks her but also teammates.
“Whether you play at 1 or 6, your match counts as one point for the team,” Pairone said. “I just try to focus on my match and do my best. I never really cared about the lineup. Obviously, I’m aware that when I play at No. 1, I am always playing the best player on the other team. But I love the challenge and I love competing. I realize it’s also important to support my teammates while I play. I am always trying to be the loudest person and bring the energy to the court, to set the example. I want my teammates to know that I’m always going to fight.”
That spirit has been embraced by teammates but it also shows her passion for the sport. Pairone grew up on the tennis court in Turin, where her mom, Nunzia, was a coach (her dad, Alberto, grew up racing motorbikes professionally).
“I was on the tennis court 24-7,” Pairone said. “That’s where I spent my childhood. I started playing at 3. My earliest memories are about tennis. I tried other sports but I pretty much hated them. When I was 11 or 12, I stopped playing the other sports.”
Pairone has been refining her game since. Confident in her groundstrokes and serve, Pairone has taken steps forward in the return game. The server will always have a huge advantage in tennis, especially on the first serve, but Pairone had to adjust from the slower clay courts of Italy and other European countries when she moved to the U.S. and competed on hard courts in college.
“Transitioning to hard courts, the return was the shot that was giving me the most trouble,” Pairone said. “I would lose a lot of points. On clay you have more time and the courts are slower. When you get to hard courts, the ball moves really fast. That’s been my biggest improvement.”
Pairone brings quite the academic background to FSU, too. She is fluent in English, Spanish and Italian while admitting her French is rusty. She also attended the Women’s Sport Foundation’s Athlete Leadership Connection (ALC) in October 2019, an invitation-only sports conference for female athletes that utilizes leadership and career development to ignite success on and off the field.
A sports psychology major, Pairone said she hopes to one day be a coach but could also blend in the mental aspects along with coaching tennis. She has also fit in with her teammates on a roster that features one American (Lara Schneider of South Carolina) as well as players from across Europe as well as India and Australia.
“What I really love is how international we are,” Pairone said. “I think that it’s such a fun team to be around. Everyone comes from a different culture, and we bring different things to the team. And it’s just really, really fun. I appreciate the diversity of our team. I think you don’t see that a lot on other teams.”