MELBOURNE, Australia -- American qualifier Katie Volynets, ranked No.113, defeated No.9 Veronika Kudermetova 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 to advance to the third-round at a major for the first time. The victory at the Australian Open is Volynets first against a Top 10 player.
"I have not played in front of that many people before, and I didn't expect to have that many fans behind me in Australia. That's super cool," Volynets told reporters. "It felt really special to the point where after I won, I literally got chills by hearing their voices."
Here's what you need to know about Volynets -- and yes, it really is pronounced "volley nets."
Her parents immigrated to America from Ukraine
Volynets' parents emigrated from Ukraine and settled in the Northern California suburb of Walnut Creek, where Katie was born. She is fluent in Ukrainian and Russian and still has extended family in Kyiv and Dnipropetrovsk.
"It's really a difficult time," Volynets said when asked about her family in Ukraine. "Before everyone used to be able to move about the country however they want to and go on with their days, and now it's just day-to-day. I really feel for them.
"To have their support through all of this is incredible. Whenever I come out on the courts, I hope that I'm supporting them as well because they're watching, and I stay strong for them."
She picked up a tennis racquet because she ran out of coloring books
The family was gifted a tennis racquet when they moved from Ukraine, and Volynets' older brother would play tennis with their parents. Volynets would hit her first tennis ball when she was 5.
"One day I got really bored with my coloring books. So then I was, like, 'Dad, can I borrow your racquet? Can I try?'" She immediately asked if she could have tennis lessons.
"The funny thing is we started playing in the house. My dad would be, like, 'Hit it into my hand,' and there was a chandelier up there. No pressure.
"After that we moved on to Heather Farms Park. That was where I had my first lessons. Then to Moraga Country Club."
She chose tennis over swimming
Volynets' mother was a good swimmer and hoped her daughter would love it as much as she did. Needless to say, it didn't stick.
"I would actually fake stomach aches after tennis practice because I really didn't want to go swimming," Volynes said.
"In tennis you don't repeat one shot over and over. Nothing against swimming, but for me personally I felt that you just take one lap, two laps, three laps, four different strokes.
"In tennis there's so many different shots, and that kept it really exciting for me all the time. I'm still really excited about every shot."
She's majoring in business administration
Volynets was still in high school when Covid hit. She opted to turn pro instead of going to college.
"To be honest, I felt there was nothing that could replace the experience of playing tournaments. I knew that if I went to college I would be limited on tournaments. I do value education, so that was a tough decision for sure.
"But the fact that WTA allows us to have a coordination with IU East University made the decision a lot easier. I knew I would take classes at IU East, which I am, and be able to play pro."
She loves being multilingual in the locker room
Volynets is thoroughly enjoying her extended time in the pro locker room.
"It's exciting to be able to practice my Russian and Ukrainian with other players," Volynets said. "I have a couple of Ukrainian friends, like Daria Snigur and Kateryna Baindl, and I really love practicing my different languages with them. That's something that's really fun for me.