Matador of the Week: Yuliia Zhytelna

Yuliia Zhytelna plays against CSU Long Beach in the spring of 2022.

Benjamin Miller, Reporter

CSUN women’s tennis player Yuliia Zhytelna is Matador of the Week after racking up multiple wins this season, while being the only Matador to secure a victory in the first round of singles at the ITA Southwest Regional, a tournament held in San Diego from Oct. 20-22. Zhytelna defeated her opponent, Cydney Yamamoto of UC Irvine, with relative ease — besting her in two straight sets, 6-3 and 6-1.

“I was just confident. I knew I was going to win,” Zhytelna said. “I was aggressive and active every shot, every point. I was just on my game.”

After advancing from the round of 128, Zhytelna went on to face the top-ranked preseason ITA singles athlete, USC’s Eryn Cayetano, in the round of 64. She ultimately fell after two back-and-forth sets.

This was the match she was anticipating the most, Zhytelna said. She wanted to gauge herself against some of the best tennis players in the Southwest.

“In the beginning, she was amazing, and she is still amazing. But I prepared myself for her to be perfect, but nobody is perfect,” Zhytelna said. “I just understood what to do. We started playing similarly, and it was an amazing experience playing on the same level.”

Yuliia Zhytelna plays against CSU Long Beach in the spring of 2022. (CSUN Athletics Department)

Last season was challenging for Zhytelna, who grew up in Ukraine, with all of the turmoil and tension from home impacting her mentality. Here in the States, Zhytelna could not focus on tennis as her thoughts drifted back home to her family. This season, however, Zhytelna is using tennis to clear her mind and zone in on the court.

“Yuliia has been through so much more than anyone can imagine. The real-life challenges her family is facing in Ukraine puts tennis in perspective,” CSUN head coach Gary Victor said. “Yuliia has handled this tragedy with such an incredible attitude and maturity. She is now realizing her potential.”

Zhytelna spent all summer practicing, and regardless of the obstacles she faces on and off the court, she is getting better. Her efforts are paying dividends right now, as she has had her best start to a season yet.

The Ukrainian-born Matador finished 1-1 in singles and 1-3 in doubles last season, but has already collected five singles victories this semester. With one event left on the schedule, it is feasible for her to get up to nine times as many wins this semester as she did last spring.

Zhytelna started playing tennis at age 7, when her mother introduced her to the game. Her mother was, and still is, a big tennis fanatic — so when Zhytelna’s teacher urged her to be more active, her mom jumped at the prospect. Since then, the sport has been integral to Zhytelna’s being.

However, tennis is not the only passion Zhytelna boasts — she also majors in journalism with dreams of one day becoming a journalist. While some might presume that a college athlete has to choose one route and stick with it, Zhytelna has different plans in mind.

“[I] want to work as a journalist in the future, but I love tennis too,” Zhytelna said. “I really want to keep up with this, and be a journalist and tennis player at the same time.”

For now, Zhytelna is solely focused on becoming the best version of herself and continuing her strong start to the season. She has constantly been in the gym, practicing and working with a counselor to take her game to the next level. Her labor bore fruit after her victory this past tournament. Zhytelna hopes to keep this hot streak going, and give CSUN a chance to rise in the Big West Conference ranks.

“My goal, for now, is to show my best game and be able to fight for the conference,” she said. “We can fight for it.”

The Matadors will host the CSUN Fall Invitational from Nov. 11-13 to wrap up the fall season. This will be the first home event for the women’s tennis team this season.

“I am really excited because all my friends are going to come and cheer for us,” Zhytelna said.