International players adapt to playing familiar game in a foreign country
In every tennis match, there are always three things: a net, a ball and a pair of rackets.
While the type of court may change and the match strategy will vary depending on where you’re playing, tennis remains one of the most popular international sports.
In the Pac-12, six men’s tennis teams have more international athletes on their rosters than they do athletes from the United States.
The Oregon men’s team is an example of such a melting pot of nationalities. Five of the team’s seven players originate from countries outside the U.S., including Australia, France, Indonesia, Belgium and Kanagawa. This influx of international talent increases the team’s overall skill level and exposes these athletes to an array of new techniques and game styles.
“Tennis is an international sport, and tennis is tennis,” head coach Nils Schyllander said. “It’s a global sport and we look globally. It doesn’t matter where you’re from. We try to field the best team we can.”
The idea of playing the sport you love and attending college at the same time is not usually an opportunity international student-athletes can find in their home countries.
For Oregon junior Thomas Laurent, the decision to move nearly 9,000 miles from his home in Montpellier, France to Eugene came down to the combination of being able to play tennis while also continuing his studies.
“In the U.S. the college sport here allows me to do my studies and play at the same time at a high level,” Laurent said. “In France that wasn’t possible, I had to choose and I didn’t want to make that choice. The U.S. just gave a perfect structure for me.”
While tennis is widely popular across the globe, each country plays the sport a little differently. Many countries focus on the individual-athlete side of the sport, while the collegiate level in America tends to be more team-oriented.
“I think the biggest difference is the team aspect,” said Cormac Clissold, an Australian native. “Coming from Australia and just playing for yourself, then to a big team environment is a big change, but it’s change in a good way. I feel like it’s really developing strong relationships with your teammates, coaches and even with other teams.”
Along with the team aspect, doubles play is another area not many international players have experience with. However, the wide range of players’ skills helps to introduce such game styles and techniques to other teammates, while also raising the overall level of play.
“We all grew up with a specific tennis culture,” said Simon Stevens, a Belgium native. “When you grow up, you spend ten years playing tennis in that culture, you don’t really understand that there are other ways to play tennis and other ways to teach tennis. I think that when you come into a team it shows that you can learn tennis from different ways.”
Stevens and Clissold agreed playing at Oregon has helped shape them into better tennis players, in addition to allowing them to form strong team friendships.
“We have everything to be able to succeed,” Stevens said. “That’s the part that amazes me every day since I’ve been here.”
Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter @maggie_vanoni
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