The Ohio State men’s tennis team has done well for itself this season, and freshman Blaz Rola has helped to lead it.
With an overall season record of 27-2 (10-0 in Big Ten), and winning its sixth consecutive Big Ten season title, the team has earned the No. 1 seed going into the Big Ten Tournament this weekend.
While the team may be focused on another Big Ten win, it is also looking forward to the NCAA Championship, which will take place May 14–15.
Freshman Ille Van Engelen said winning the NCAA Championship is “the biggest goal of the season” for him and his team.
Standing at 6-foot-4, the Slovenia native is ranked No. 3 in the nation in singles and No. 9 in doubles with his partner, junior Chase Buchanan.
“I just want to play and get better and better,” he said. “I hope we’ll play good. We have a chance to go all the way, but it’s a long way and there is a lot of hard work still left.”
Although Rola is at OSU now, his original plan for his tennis career didn’t involve playing at the collegiate level.
“First I was thinking about going pro,” Rola said. “But after 18 months of Ty calling and emailing me, I decided to come here and take a look. And I really liked it.”
According to the official OSU athletics site, Rola has won two doubles titles and a singles title on the professional circuit in 2010. And in 2008 he won the title of the La Vie Sport Junior Cup Villach Champion and has been ranked as high as No. 388 in the world.
Like so many other players on the team, Rola got his start in tennis at an early age.
“My whole family played,” he said. “I started playing with my dad, but I never thought, ‘I’m going to be a tennis player.'”
But, he said, the more he practiced, played in and won different matches and tournaments, the more he liked the game.
Rola brings a lot of strengths to the team.
He lists his serve, his left-handed ability and his quick movement on the court as some of the strengths he has brought to OSU.
“Lefties cause a lot of problems for righties,” Rola said.
While he does play doubles, Rola said he prefers to play singles.
“I like singles better,” he said. “But I know I need to develop my doubles game. I have to play it to make my singles game better.”
Rola continues to succeed in doubles and he, along with the rest of his team, will begin play in the Big Ten Tournament beginning Thursday in Madison, Wis.