Player Profiles - Roxy Enica and Gabi Niculescu

March 2, 2023


Roxy Enica and Gabi Niculescu play paddle tennis with the focus of a laser beam and the fight of a cornered bear. In 2022, they played four tournaments together—finalists at the Boston Open Grand Prix, fifth at Short Hills Grand Prix, winners at the Philly Open, and finalists in a three-set battle at the Women’s Nationals in Long Island. Quick success for a new team.

This season, they won the Montclair Open, the first APTA Tour event of the season, lost a three-set heart-breaker final at the first Grand Prix in Chicago, were finalists at the Detroit Grand Prix, came in fifth at the Boston Open Grand Prix, and brought home the hardware at the final Grand Prix at Short Hills.

On the court, Niculescu pummels the ball and Enica deploys spins, rollers, and cutters with skill. Her side-arm serve has also become a weapon. They are a two-alpha-player team with limitless talent. Off the court, they strike a balance of humor, honesty, and humility.



Enica and Niculescu have an easy rapport. They have some commonalities—mothers of young boys and a Romanian background—but their desire to work hard on strategy and mental acuity has solidified their partnership.

Enica has two boys, ages 7 and 5, who are, as Niculescu says, “Future stars.” Niculescu has two sons ages 4 and 2 ½. Niculescu is modest about her own kids but said this about Enica’s. “After the Montclair Open, I drove Roxy home to the New Canaan Field Club, where she lives. It was Sunday afternoon, and her kids were out hitting paddle balls into the screen, waiting for their mom to come home. There wasn’t even an adult on the court. They just love it!”

Regarding motherhood changing her court time, Niculescu said, “I was lucky. I had my first son in December 2017. Miraculously I played eight tournaments with Liz Cruz that season. Three months exactly after having a baby, I won the 2018 Nationals. The second one I planned terribly—I had him two days before Nationals in 2020.” She laughed, “The 2019 -2020 season was not my best.”

Enica said, “I never took a break for my kids. I did have to take time off in the first part of the 2021-2022 season with a torn meniscus. Gabi and I found success right away together in 2022.”



Niculescu said, “We are getting more comfortable with each other. At first, we had to explain to each other how we play.”

Enica added, “We are both aggressive. Sometimes we both want to hit the same shot.”

Niculescu explained further, “We both want to hit all the balls. We have to take turns. It took a while to find the pace. We now trust each other. We have two alpha people on the court so it’s a challenge. I’m trying to be a beta; it’s a work in progress. I want Roxy to hit more balls to keep her engaged. If I’m hitting all the balls, I’m loose and ready. It’s one of the biggest challenges in paddle. I teach my players, ‘When a team is picking on your partner, how do you stay engaged and ready? The ball will eventually come to you. Do you mess it up? Or do you win the point and keep the strategy going?’ In the past, I was so focused on creating all the strategy myself. Roxy has all these amazing tricks that I want to let her play more and I want to watch the show. I want to help out more with whatever I can, like taking the net more often, so she can do her beautiful cuts and trick shots. And end the point.”

Enica laughed, “Or you.”



The team tries to practice at least once a week for the month before a tournament. They live about 35 minutes apart, but they both work long hours. They have found a few players—J.P. McConnell, Harry DeMott, and Evan Paushter—who help get them ready for tournaments. “Evan has always been on our side. If we ever beat him one time, that will be a really good confidence booster for us,” Niculescu laughed.

Enica added that she practiced with Max LePivert (Director of Racquets at the Stanwich Club) a lot last year.

Niculescu said, “Our goal—we want to win Nationals. All the tournaments we play are to get better and better and hopefully we play our best at Nationals. Another goal is to have more fun on the paddle court. Sometimes I get too serious on the court during matches. I have so much fun on the court when I’m not in a big tournament.”

Enica admitted, “We are both working on that. I am the same way.”

The two teaching professionals use work and kids to stay in shape. Enica said, “We don’t have any time for working out. We are teaching all day and chasing kids the rest of the time.”

“If people are wondering where my guns come from, my kids are around 35 pounds now and they like to be held. They are my dumbbells,” Niculescu laughed.



Enica and Niculescu are fans of Live Streaming and watching matches for intel. Most of their improvements come about during matches, more so than practices. Niculescu said, “Hopefully we can bring out a new skill. At Charities, we figured out a few new things about our team and that’s going to help us grow. Any strategy we can come up with and win with gives us one more trick for the next tourney. We problem solve at the matches.”

Enica agreed. “What keeps me engaged and motivated is that every match is a new game. The strategy can change so fast even during the same match. The semifinals and finals at Chicago Charities were challenging, especially with the weather. One match was like playing on an ice rink, and the wind was so crazy. Obviously playing against tough opponents it was also very mentally challenging to stay engaged. I enjoy the competition and figuring this game out.” She laughed, “And some of my mental training is playing with Gabi.”

Enica continued, “She sees the court so well, it’s fun to play with her. She sees the game differently, from a different angle, that I have not experienced with different partners, so I really love it.”

Speaking of love, Enica likes her roller, but she loves her backhand cutter. Niculescu agreed, “Her backhand cutter is a beauty.”

As for Niculescu’s love, she loves the whole game. “I do like to hit the ball hard. I love the hard roller into the screen. It is tough when it doesn’t work well because I love it so much. I love the points going on long, I like that it is a game of strategy, and it is a game of errors. Even as a kid in tennis, I liked doubles and figuring out the strategy. I have a lot of confidence in my doubles game. It comes more naturally to me. It’s about making fewer errors and less about hitting winners. I actually hate that about the game, too,” Niculescu laughed.



Enica learned a trick after battling a bit of fatigue in some tournaments. “Now that it is so cold, I don’t like to drink many liquids. I don’t like to drink a lot of sugar juice. When I play with a partner like Liz Cruz (Philly Cricket Classic) who lets me be the alpha, I tend to overhit and my body gets pent up to another level. I have to stay hydrated. So now I drink Pedialyte two days in advance of a tournament. During the tournament, I just keep drinking it.”

Niculescu revealed her habits as well. “I have at least one Gatorade a day. Sometimes I will mix it with water. I eat sweets and cookies every day of my life, but during tournaments, I won’t. I like to feel light during the day. I try to eat small meals during tournaments.”

For post-match warm-downs, Enica said, “I use the massage gun after every match. You can carry them everywhere and they are so amazing what they do and how they relax the muscles after matches.” But the real credit for Enica’s agility on the court goes to Dr. Brian Nathanson. “He is my chiropractor in Norwalk (CT) who saved me from surgery for my torn meniscus last year. He is probably the reason I am still playing paddle. Even though there is pain, there is so much less. He makes time for me, and he shows up after matches to treat me.”



Niculescu is one of the few top players who played the game for fun first before becoming a pro. “For four years, I taught summer tennis at New Canaan Racquet Club and indoor tennis in the winter at New Canaan Field Club. Viki Stoklasova, a pro at NCRC, was trying to reach the top 10 in paddle. I can remember her saying, ‘I just got to #11 rank and I’m really excited.’ We all lived at the Field Club. All the tennis pros went to the paddle courts at night after work, from 10 PM to midnight. We didn’t know what we were doing. At a fundraiser at the club, one of the raffle prizes was a lesson with Viki. Everyone knew I wanted it, so they let me win. She was so nice at our lesson. Then, Brad Easterbrook asked me to help with the junior program and to join the women’s team. The ladies were all excited to show me how to play paddle. From there, I started playing tournaments for fun. Guga Goncalves at Millbrook offered me a full-time job. In 2016, that was my first winter teaching paddle instead of tennis. I played on the men’s team. I wasn’t married and didn’t have kids and I loved paddle, so I played a lot. That was the season Martina and I won Nationals.”

Enica’s story is a little different. “I came to Connecticut to work because of my now ex-boyfriend, who used to be Juan’s assistant. A friend helped me get a job that summer (2008) at a sleepaway camp in upstate New York where he was the director. It definitely was not the job I was looking for—I lasted three weeks. Luckily, the family who was housing my sister that summer—they are now the godparents of my two kids—let me stay as well. I helped out when needed at several clubs in Darien and Greenwich. Juan hired me for summers until I graduated. He told me if I wanted to work full-time, I would have to learn paddle. (I didn’t have that boyfriend anymore.) I had never played. Juan said, ‘Tomorrow you need to get certified. Don’t worry about it, just jump on the court and I will show you the main things you need to know.’ I read over the rules and the questions. Obviously, I barely passed it. I was just learning about the game and then I had to try to teach it.”

Niculescu added, “People should know it takes hard work to get certified. Not everyone can do it, but Roxy is special.”

Enica continued, “The members, the guys especially, were so excited to have a prodigy to work with who had some potential so they invested their time to help me get better.”


Both Niculescu and Enica play in the APTA Mixed Nationals. While their husbands are tennis players, neither one has played competitive platform tennis. Enica played with Juan Arraya and together they captured three consecutive Mixed Nationals titles. She said, “In 2022, I played with Mark Parsons. I’ve always admired him but never really had a chance to hang out with him. Such a gentleman on and off the court. I had an amazing time playing with him and we had a great run capturing second place.”

Niculescu said, “I played with Drew Broderick. He’s my favorite partner to play with. We won Mixed Nationals once together. When we lost to Florentina (Hanisch) and Martin (Bostrom), they were picking on me. All I could do was lob. Martin kept going after me in the corner, giving me the punishment. I could barely walk after that. That’s probably how I got better at the deuce side, playing the mixed events. I wish they held Mixed Doubles Nationals before Women’s Nationals. We see so many balls and it would be a good tune-up for us. Women’s doubles would be so much easier after that. We would look so good.”

Enica laughed, “The men would probably look horrible.”


Enica and Niculescu do not look for the easy way out. When they were asked about who their favorite opponents would be, Niculescu said, “I loved playing against Viki and Ana (Brzova). I would love to have played them more. They were a huge challenge for me when I first started playing and I never got to beat them before they retired. They were an amazing and competitive team, tremendous competitors. I always dreamed about getting the W.”

Enica admitted, “At this point I’m very motivated to grab a W against Florentina and Ana. We have come very close a couple of times now. I went back and watched afew matches we played against them and tried to learn from the mistakes and look for things that we can do better.”

Niculescu summarized, “We have more variety now—all we need is a next time.”

Look for Roxy Enica and Gabi Niculescu at the 2023 Women’s Nationals in Chicago on March 10-11.

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