The No. 7 Baylor men’s tennis team is 19-4 on the season. The Bears have had a successful season, thus far boasting a 13-4 record against nationally ranked teams.
Junior Mate Zsiga has played in a variety of positions for the Bears, filling in anywhere from the No. 2 spot to the No. 5 position in the lineup. Despite being moved around most of the season, Zsiga has been a consistent contributor, helping the Bears to a 23-12 record and a seven-match winning streak.
Q: How did you get your start in tennis?
A: Well, my family is really tennis based. My parents, my brother, they have all played tennis. My dad was my coach when I was 2 years old. That’s pretty much how I got a tennis racket in my hand. Growing up, when my brother got done with practice, then it was my turn.
I played other sports, but tennis was always my main focus because my dad was the coach. He coached for about 30 years or so and he taught me everything that I know about tennis. I can tell I am playing a lot like he did, probably because he taught me so much. I was also really lucky that I had my brother to play with. It was really good for me and my development. Another thing that really helped me along in my development was that my parents were smart players. They taught me all the little things like how to stay composed after a tough loss on the court. I believe I was really successful at the junior level because they taught me how to think through every situation and overcome difficulties during the match.
I have my family to thank for my base and everything I have right now. They are the reason I am here and gave me the opportunity to accomplish what I am right now. When I came over to America, I know I was really immature and still trying to find my way in the game, so Coach [Matt] Knoll was a big help in that he and the training staff just helped me get stronger and more physically ready to go out there and play this game.
Q: Growing up, who were the tennis players that you idolized and looked up to?
A: Definitely (Roger) Federer. I think what he does on the court is just unbelievable and he is just the tennis player that everyone looks at and tries to learn from. But you do have to look at the game style and for me, I don’t play like Federer. I just do a different thing completely.
Two players that I can say play similar to me are Fernando Verdasco, who was a lefty Spanish guy who I certainly say I play like.
The other one is David Ferrer, who is another guy from Spain who does a lot of the same things I do. Good returning, solid serving and just the ability to hang in there as long as possible, similar to (Rafael) Nadal. Even though his type of play is a little more extreme, I have a similar game style to him as well. All of those Spanish guys; I can say my game has some comparable attributes to them. Before I got here, I tried to look up as many players as I could. Just to see how they play, where they hit the ball and those kinds of things. I try to adjust some of those things to what best suits my game style. These two to three guys I can really look up to.
Q: As one of the upperclassmen, what would you say your role is to the team in general?
A: Yeah, I am an upperclassman now. I think it’s good that we have a couple younger guys, but for the most part, we have a bunch of older guys. We have Tony (Lupieri), Diego (Galeano) and Michel (Dornbusch) plus me, so I would say we are more of an experienced team.
Honestly, what I try to do to help the team is to bring energy and emotion. I also think my role is to show guys how it is done physically, how to fight for every point and things like that. I know when I go out there, I am not the best player most of the time, but what I try to always do is make sure that no one is going to outwork me. If I believe in one thing, it’s hard work. There are always more talented players out there, but my mentality is going to be if you work hard, then hard work is going to pay off.
Running, working out and playing tennis harder than anybody is the one thing I focus on. That’s how I try to help the team and be an example to the other guys.
Q: You mentioned that you like to provide the team with energy. How do you think that helps the team not only on the court but also off of it?
A: One of the really big things for us is to always be positive on the court and I think that carries over to off the court as well. A lot of the emotion that individuals show on the court really carries over to their personality and how they act off the court. I mean this is our life and playing the game really shows how people are. It is an outlet for us to express ourselves and interact with other guys who love the same things that we do. It helps us to get to know each other better and how to handle our differences both on and off the court.
Q: How far do you think you guys can go this year?
A: I think we can go all the way; I just totally believe it. We have strengths at every position that’s maybe even the best in the whole country. We won the Big 12 last year and obviously want to win it again. If we aren’t able to do it again, I would look at this season as a failure. We are better than last year; even though the conference is also better, I still think we are the top team. Even though the rankings might not say that we are on top, I just believe in these guys and our abilities. As far as the NCAA’s go, anything could happen. Over the past couple of years, we have had a couple of losses in the tournament, but we have learned from our mistakes, and we are ready to take on anyone that comes our way. This is a special group; I really believe that.