Eleonore and Verginie Tchakarova have been inseparable from birth.
The two newest members of the women’s tennis team, Eleonore and Verginie, are twins from Bulgaria, who have just begun their tennis careers in America at Murray State.
“The longest we’ve been separated is like one school day,” Eleonore said. “We pretty much do everything the same.”
Born in Casablanca, Morocco, Eleonore and Verginie began playing tennis when they were three years old. Their family moved from Morocco to Bulgaria while the girls were still young.
The young girls constantly pushed each other to get better growing up. Though they often played as doubles partners, they would also play matches against each other.
Those matches, Verginie said, were the toughest ones.
“There was always a little competitiveness growing up,” Verginie said. “When we play matches against each other, they’re always the longest matches of our lives – like three hours. One time she wins, the other I win; we’re pretty evenly matched.”
As the sisters began to get more serious about tennis, they started playing in international junior tournaments.
The twins first came to America in 2007 to play in the Junior Orange Bowl Cup in Coral Gables, Fla. The then-13-year-old girls knew they wanted to come back someday to study and play tennis.
“We just fell in love,” Verginie said. “We knew we wanted to study here so badly.”
The twins learned English in high school so they could take the SAT and have the chance to attend an American university.
As they began contacting schools about potential tennis scholarships, they both received limited interest.
Finally, Murray State Head Coach Olga Elkin emailed the twins about a potential offer. Excited by the opportunity to play tennis in America and become Racers, Eleonore and Verginie accepted the offer without ever setting foot on campus.
“We started searching for universities, and that’s the funny part because we sent applications to like 20 universities and only had two that answered,” Eleonore said. “Coach Elkin sent us an email and we didn’t even write to (Murray State). After we reviewed the site and the coach and everything, we liked Murray State so much we accepted it.”
Eleonore and Verginie were quickly immersed in American culture as their first day on campus was spent moving into White Residential College and making the routine Walmart run to gather all the dorm room essentials.
Overall, they said the transition from Bulgaria to western Kentucky has been easier than expected thanks to their coaches and teammates.
“It wasn’t that hard to adjust because the older people are so friendly, and the coaches and players just made us feel like we were at home,” Verginie said. “Coach Elkin is just great. She’s so into her job and she’s always there for us. Whenever we have any problems she always helps us.”
It has taken no time for the twins to adjust on the court as well. In their first tournament with Murray State, Eleonore and Verginie claimed the doubles title at the Austin Peay Open.
They defeated a duo from UT Martin 6-3 in the championship match.
Verginie also advanced to the championship match in singles competition, dropping the hard-fought match in a third set tie breaker.
Eleonore advanced to the finals the next week at the UT Chattanooga Steve Baras Fall Classic, coming from behind to defeat Carolina Faught of Alabama-Birmingham, 2-6, 6-1, 4-1. The championship match was called a draw as teammate Carla Suga also advanced to the finals.
Though Eleonore and Verginie have only been in America for a few months, they’ve already experienced success both on and off the court.
At the end of the day, however, the Tchakarova twins are just happy to be playing tennis together in America.
“We always knew we wanted to play together,” Elonore said. “We just love it here and it’s already so much fun.”
Story by Jonathan Ferris, Staff Writer