By Phillip Ericksen
The Baylor men’s tennis team is defined by hard work, discipline and excellence, and sophomore Mate Zsiga lives up to them all.
He was born in Germany and went to high school in the small city of Szeged, Hungary, and tennis was a pivotal part of his life from the very beginning.
“My whole family played tennis,” Zsiga says. “Both of my parents played at a high level. My dad became a coach and was coaching my brother, and I was there too.”
This homegrown coaching led to quick results, as he found success in the junior level circuit for players under the age of 18.
Zsiga played at the French Open, U.S. Open and Wimbledon, as well as the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.
His Hungarian team also won the European Team Championships twice, making it the first victory for the Central European nation.
Following Zsiga’s early successes, the opportunity to play tennis at Baylor wasn’t one to pass up for him. He was specifically influenced by the environment and by head coach Matt Knoll, who has led Baylor to 10 Big 12 titles in the last 13 years.
“We talked a lot and I really liked his personality,” Zsiga said. “It’s a great place. The campus is beautiful and the facilities are first-class. I think I made the right decision and I would not change it.”
The decision paid off quickly. Zsiga’s freshman year was full of victories. He finished with a 36-9 singles record and was 22-5 in dual matches in the No. 1 spot.
His most memorable victory of last year came against the 5th-ranked player in the nation.
“In Kentucky I won against Eric Quigley in straight sets,” he says. “That was probably my best win of the season. As a freshman against a senior, who was a three-time All-American already, I won against him. It was a very important win for us because we won 4-3.”
Victories such as this one led to Zsiga’s own All-American status, which he doesn’t take for granted.
“I just couldn’t dream of anything better than that,” he said. “It was just an honor for me to be a part of that group of great guys who were All-Americans at Baylor here before.”
Despite all of the wins and accolades, Zsiga remains humble and is constantly inspired by his family.
“I talk a lot about my family,” he says. “They inspire me a lot. We talk about how things are going, if I should do this or do that. My brother is probably my greatest supporter and talks to me all the time. He’s really interested and excited about my whole career.”
He is also inspired by NBA superstar Kevin Garnett, who is known for his passion on and off the court.
Zsiga also has plans to play professionally after his time at Baylor.
“I enjoy these four years and try to improve as I can and we’ll see what happens after that,” he says. “I’ll try to turn pro after that, but it’s still the future.”
In his free time, Zsiga prefers to spend time with his teammates and build even more team chemistry.
“We’re really like a family and I enjoy all my time with them,” he says. “They are the first choice. When you have free time, you always try to organize things and spend time together.”
Zsiga takes on this leadership role and realizes the importance of not only playing tennis well, but bonding as one unit.
“This is a part of Baylor. We are really a team. We are a family, we have to stick together and we do that.”