When Julia Margaux Elbaba and Dr. Matthew George Nevulis matched on Bumble in early 2019, neither was in a position to make a long-distance relationship work. Dr. Nevulis lived in Charlottesville, Va., where he was completing his medical residency at the University of Virginia. Ms. Elbaba was traveling the world as a professional tennis player, with a home base in Garden City, N.Y.
The two chatted on the app, but dropped it with, “If you’re ever in New York …”
Months later, in December 2019, Dr. Nevulis was in New York. He was driving back to Virginia from visiting his family in Albany, N.Y., and texted Ms. Elbaba. He could meet her on Long Island.
In fact, he could meet her for even longer. He had matched for his fellowship at a hospital in New York City. He’d be moving closer to her in June 2020 and wondered if they might work out after all.
“I tell him to this day that the text message means so much to me,” Ms. Elbaba said.
The couple met at Bar Frites in Greenvale, N.Y., and had a great conversation. “It was a deep connection,” Ms. Elbaba said.
She planned a visit to Charlottesville in February 2020. A graduate of the University of Virginia herself, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in media studies, Ms. Elbaba said her weeklong trip was to see her former tennis coach and friends. But she admits a big motivation was to see Dr. Nevulis for seven back-to-back dates.
Seven days turned into three months. Covid lockdown commenced while she was in Virginia, and she didn’t feel comfortable getting on a plane back to New York. The two quickly fell into a routine: cooking dinner, running errands, taking picnics on hikes and cozying up with Netflix.
Ms. Elbaba said it was a seamless transition. But as a traditionalist at heart, she didn’t know if she should be living with someone she had just met so soon. When Covid restrictions were lifted, the couple went back to living separately in the New York City area. Dr. Nevulis, now a doctor with NYC Health & Hospitals, moved in June 2020 for a fellowship in pulmonary critical care at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. He is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and attended medical school at New York Medical College.
Ms. Elbaba then made a personal decision: She was ready to move on from professional tennis and settle down. At the time, she was recovering from an athletic injury and began reporting on high school sports part-time for Newsday. Ms. Elbaba said she wanted a relationship and family, but realized that she needed to be less nomadic, so she decided to lean into a career as a journalist.
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By September 2022, the couple felt “things fell into place very easily,” Ms. Elbaba said. They formed close bonds with each other’s friends and family. Ms. Elbaba was by then working as a digital editor for NBCUniversal, where she continues to cover sports. Dr. Nevulis was finishing his medical training and sensed the time was right in their professional lives and their relationship for the next step.
“When you’re playing a chess match well, things just flow,” Dr. Nevulis said. “When you’re not, you have to force things. I looked at it from that standpoint, and it was a no-brainer.”
Ms. Elbaba was busy covering the U.S. Open, so he treated her to lunch on her one day off. The couple ate at Harvest on Hudson, in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., and then took a walk along the water in Tarrytown, where he proposed.
The couple now lives in Tarrytown, and “serendipitously” can see their proposal spot from their apartment window.
Ms. Elbaba, 29, and Dr. Nevulis, 32, married on Nov. 18 at Hempstead House, in Sands Point, N.Y. The couple’s friend, Anthony Foggia, who is a Universal Life Church minister, officiated. The couple took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and hosted an outdoor ceremony in the afternoon sunshine with their 125 guests and performed a choreographed first dance at the reception to Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”
“Our love is like a tennis match,” Ms. Elbaba said. “We’re scoring in time and serve is on. We don’t have to force the game to win.”