Ariana Arseneault is from Richmond Hill, a city in the Canadian province of Ontario. She’s also one of the newest additions to the already impressive Georgia women’s tennis team.
Though Arseneault’s parents never played tennis themselves, they knew early on they wanted their daughter to play tennis. She began playing at the age of 4 and worked on her craft at a Russian tennis academy in Toronto until 12, when she made the move to Tennis Canada.
Arseneault’s commute to and from the Tennis Canada training center amounted to a grueling three-hour round trip, but Tennis Canada opened up a new world of possibilities for her. She traveled to 17 different countries for youth tennis tournaments with Tennis Canada, her favorites being Israel, Brazil and the Czech Republic.
For some players, playing in front of crowds can be a difficult challenge to overcome. For Arseneault, a raucous crowd helped her reach a high point in her career by defeating three world-ranked players on home soil in the ITF J1 Tournament.
“The crowd around me helped really well, too,” Arseneault said. “What I’m excited for always is I play better with crowds. Against me or for me, it doesn’t matter, I just love a good tennis environment.”
Competing in high-profile junior tournaments worldwide undoubtedly helped Arseneault develop an appetite for high stakes and a desire to improve and win on the court. These are some of the reasons why Georgia assistant coach Drake Bernstein believed Arseneault would be a great addition to the team after her visit to Georgia.
Bernstein first discovered Arseneault at a tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina, in October 2018. He wasn’t able to see her play due to heavy rain postponing the tournament, but he saw enough in her warmup to know she was worth tracking. Arseneault visited Georgia in March of 2019 and committed to the school two months later, declining three other interested programs.
“We were a great fit for what she was looking for and she’s what we’re looking for,” Bernstein said. “On the visit, she passed all the tests. We’re looking for someone that’s hungry, who wants to get after it. It seemed like a good fit.”
Arseneault was looking for a pathway to the professional level and she feels that Georgia can help her achieve that goal.
“I feel like the coaches here at Georgia really supported the fact that I still want to play tennis after college and play in the pro tournaments during college,” Arseneault said. “The training here is helping me get better and to accomplish that goal someday.”
Besides playing in professional tournaments, Arseneault has competed in the first two tournaments of Georgia’s fall season. She notched her first singles win against Vanderbilt’s Dasha Kourkiona 7-6(7), 6-2, on Oct. 17.
Prior to recording her first singles win with the Bulldogs, Arseneault had an injury-prone previous two years. In October 2018, she started feeling a difference in her elbow. After months of visiting multiple doctors that couldn’t give the Arseneault family a diagnosis, they found their answer. A Toronto-based doctor diagnosed Arseneault with an ulnar nerve, and she underwent an ulnar nerve transposition operation in January, a month after her diagnosis.
Roughly four months later, Arseneault returned to play. However, she experienced another setback in November 2019 when she began experiencing pain in her neck, arm and shoulder, which were eventually diagnosed as trigger points. Arseneault started training again in February 2020 and was set to compete in a tournament in March, but then COVID-19 cancellations delayed her comeback.
Although Arseneault said it was tough not to be able to play, she was still able to practice and prepare for college. When she joined up with the women's tennis team, she also decided to pursue a degree in exercise and sports science.
“I want to help the athletes that are like me,” Arseneault said. “I feel like I have a lot of personal knowledge and experience, which I’m hoping to use somehow to help others because it was really tough for me mentally.”
Georgia senior Katarina Jokic has been paired with Arseneault in doubles play for Georgia’s first two weekends of competition this season. The two currently hold a 3-2 record, and Jokic can already attest to what makes Arsenault such a valuable doubles partner.
“I’ve never had a doubles partner with such good energy,” Jokic said. “She’s feisty. She loves to compete. It’s really fun to watch her play, and she’s a really good player, too, so we’re lucky to have her.”