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Five questions for men's tennis player Vlad Murad

Vlad Murad (Bacau, Romania), senior, men’s tennis

1. Tell us about your hometown: Bacau, Romania.

Bacau is a city of about 130,000 people (pretty large by Romanian standards) in northeastern Romania. The city is known for its great state-funded educational and sporting facilities, which I had the opportunity to use while living there. Since these facilities are state-funded, I had the option of trying out a bunch of different sports without paying a lot of money, and was able to receive great education in public schools. Living in Bacau, and in Romania in general, means living within a large family, as close friends become nothing less than an extension of your biological family. I would say Romania is a mixture of the comfort of the Western World and the struggles of a developing country, and I believe that experiencing both ends of this spectrum was very useful. On the one hand, you get easy access to education, health, and technology, but on the other hand you also get to experience (sometimes first-hand) hardship, poverty, and corruption, which I believe made me a strong and self-sufficient person.

2. Tell us the story how you went from Romania to Colby College in Waterville, Maine?

A great deal of my older tennis teammates from back home went to Division I tennis programs in the United States, and I wanted to follow in their footsteps. I got into both Division I and Division III schools, and deciding between whether I want to be student-athlete or an athlete-student was probably one of the toughest decisions I'll ever have to make. Fortunately, one of my best friends was attending Bates College while I was making this decision and convinced me that the level at which tennis is played in the NESCAC combined with the excellent education offered by the institutions in the conference will allow me to play tennis competitively while receiving a great education. Although this might sound a little cold, I chose Colby due to its academic reputation and great financial aid. This was due to not being able to visit any of the schools I applied to which forced me to make a decision solely based on numbers and pictures of campuses.

3. You recently won your 40th career doubles match with teammate Carl Reid. You have been together since you guys were first-years. What has your tennis relationship been like?  Who is the guy that has to calm the other one down?
It has been great! I can't think of a time when we had a conflict. In fact, I can't even think of any significant friction that we had in the countless number of times we played against each other in practice matches, which is quite remarkable given how competitive we both are and how much we both hate to lose. I believe we did a great job at pushing each other to become better tennis players while ignoring petty conflicts for a higher position on the ladder. Carl and I complement each other very well on the tennis court: I am more aggressive and get closer to the net, while he always has my back covered when I get lobbed; he is more consistent than I am, while I have moments when I can singlehandedly win or lose a game. In terms of calming each other down, there is usually one of us with a clear head calming the other one. I am definitely more choleric, but Carl has his moments too.

4. You have one of the highest grade point averages of any student-athlete. How do you balance academics and athletics, especially since you play fall and spring seasons?

I feel that athletics are a great way to stay focused, productive, and mentally sharp. Knowing that you have practice at a given time or that you have to go to sleep at a given time to go to a morning practice is a strong incentive to do your schoolwork as quickly and efficiently as possible. Furthermore, it is always refreshing to work on something, go do some form of physical activity for a while and then return to your work with a clear mind. I have also become very good at organizing my time and at not procrastinating. However, the most important reason to why I am able to balance academics and athletics is that I enjoy doing both. A lot. It is much easier to sit down and study for hours when you are genuinely interested in what you are studying, and I was fortunate enough to find this kind fascination in Computer Science and Mathematics. That being said, I do sacrifice hours of sleep and some aspects of social life, and I do need a couple of mugs of coffee to wake up in the morning.

5. You are majoring in Math and Computer Science. What's next after graduation in May?

I will be pursuing a PhD in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning at the University of Washington. The end goal is a career in research and/or teaching in this field.