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Chicago State Tennis Player is an Artist On and Off the Court

By Justin Breen | January 27, 2013 8:07am

ROSELAND — Chicago State University's best women's tennis player is 4 feet, 9 inches tall and is called "Papoy" — after the cute characters from the cartoon film "Despicable Me" — by teammates.

Karyn Emeralda wears size 5 Nike tennis shoes — sneakers so tiny they have to be specially ordered.

But she packs a big punch on the court, overpowering much taller opponents with shot-making talents.

"If she can find a knockout punch, she'll take it," Chicago State fourth-year coach Jack Barton said. "Probably the best player I've ever coached."

Emeralda, a junior from Jakarta, Indonesia, carries her creativity off the court, where the graphic design major crafts the Cougars' tennis, track and golf team posters.

She also designed Twitter logos and Facebook graphics for various Chicago State squads.

"I like making stuff," said Emeralda, 21, who will graduate in 3 ½ years. "I liked playing puzzles when I was a kid, and graphic design is close to making a puzzle."

Emeralda has been able to solve most of her opponents' tennis tactics throughout her Cougars career.

Her practice partner, freshman Marnie Perez-Ochoa, said Emeralda is "extremely fast with her hands, hits the ball hard and can make it land wherever she wants."

Perez-Ochoa, who lives across the hall from Emeralda in a Chicago State dorm, said Emeralda also is constantly perfecting her graphic know-how.

"I will see pictures on her computer, she'll edit them, and all of a sudden she'll have cool things put together," said Perez-Ochoa, of Louisville. "She makes it look so easy."

Emeralda is continuing an interesting family tradition at C.S.U. Her older sister Golda Rubina graduated from the school in 2010 after a stellar singles career despite being an inch shorter than Emeralda.

"The height doesn't matter. We just manage it well I think," said Rubina, 25, a freelance photographer who lives in Chinatown.

Rubina thinks her sister will have a career in animation, possibly designing characters similar to "Papoy."

Emeralda wants to stay in Chicago after graduation and is actively looking for jobs.

Perez-Ochoa said that won't be a problem for her teammate and friend.

"I know she's going to be very successful," she said.