The highlight of the UCSB men’s tennis team thus far this season has been the consistent and outstanding play of junior co-captain Marcin Kosakowski.
Kosakowski has been on a hot streak as of late, winning five of his last six matches at the #1 singles spot. He and sophomore J.J. Stewart have been playing extremely well as a doubles duo, winning nine of their last 12 matches.
An especially satisfying win during Kosakowski’s recent run came last weekend against the #52 ranked University of San Diego. The Poland native believes his straight-set win against San Diego’s best singles player, senior Mattias Trengefjord, was one of his most meaningful victories of the season.
“My last match against San Diego was really important,” Kosakowski said. “That win was really a good confidence builder for me personally.”
However, it has not been all roses for the Gauchos or Kosakowski this season. After experiencing several tough losses, the junior has used those setbacks to improve his play. Fellow co-captain Marcio Pepe thinks that Kosakowski’s loss early in the year at Berkeley was a changing point in his season.
“He played really well against Berkeley,” Pepe said. “He could have won that match. It was very close. I think that match made him realize how good he can play. I think losing the match made him want to improve even more.”
During this past offseason, Kosakowski worked extensively with UCSB Head Coach Marty Davis to improve his backhand. Kosakowski felt it was the weakest part of his game prior to this season, and after working hard to improve his swing, his teammates now believe the backhand to be one of Kosakowski’s most important assets.
“He worked hard and he started believing in himself,” Pepe said. “He turned his backhand from a weakness to a weapon. I think that’s really helped him this year.”
Even more important than improving technically, Davis believes that Kosakowski is enjoying more success this season because he has improved his mental approach to the game.
“I think before [Kosakowski] was trying to decide what kind of player he wanted to be,” Davis said. “He is more aggressive this year. He is coming to the net more. He’s a big powerful guy and now he’s taking advantage of it.”
Davis thinks the turning point for Kosakowski came at the ITA regional tournament last fall, when Kosakowski defeated nationally ranked UCLA junior Erfan Djahangiri.
“I think [beating Djahangiri] really put him over the top,” Davis said. “He realized he belonged.”
Kosakowski not only contributes to the team with his consistent play, but he also provides leadership for the young Santa Barbara squad.
“I’m not a real vocal guy,” Kosakowski said. “I try to lead by example. I try to have high energy in practice and matches. I think the amount you put into something is how much you’ll get out of it.”
Freshman Jerome Chan believes Kosakowski’s approach to practice and hard work set a good example for the other players.
“He plays a huge leadership role,” Chan said. “He keeps us on task. He works hard at everything. I think he’s a role model to everybody on the team.”
Davis has also been impressed with Kosakowski’s role within the team as a co-captain and one of the veteran players.
“Marcin is filling in some huge shoes playing at the #1 singles spot,” Davis said. “Simon Shen last year was Big West Player of the Year, and the year before that Cory Guy was Big West Player of the Year too. I’ve been really impressed with how he’s handled himself. He’s been playing his best tennis when it counts the most.”
Kosakowski is now excited about the remaining portion of this season, and has confidence in UCSB’s ability to play great tennis as the season begins to draw to a close.
“I would be surprised if we didn’t win the Big West Tournament,” Kosakowski said. “We are very capable of playing great tennis, and next year we have two really good recruits coming in. We’re only going to get better as a team.”