Slovak senior leads SIU men's tennis out the door on high note
Southern Illinois men's tennis went out with a smash, thanks in large part to Michal Kianicka.
The senior from Bratislava, Slovakia, became the winningest doubles player in program history this spring, as well as being one of four Salukis to place on the All-Missouri Valley Conference Team.
All those achievements and honors were instrumental in SIU finishing second in the MVC and posting the fifth-most wins in a season for the program.
“The season was great and the records are, also," Kianicka told the Southwest Illinois News. "But the best thing was our team did well."
In his senior season, Kianicka posted a 22-6 overall singles record, including a 16-2 mark at No. 3 singles, and was 17-9 in doubles. For his SIU career, Kianicka notched 68 doubles wins, which topped Jonny Rigby, the Salukis' head coach and Kianicka's former doubles partner, who had 66 wins in 2013-16.
Because of cost-cutting measures announced in January, SIU will eliminate the men's and women's tennis programs effective July 1. Kianicka said he has a season of eligibility left because of an injury in the 2016 season and plans to play at Wright State University as he pursues a master's in business administration.
Kianicka got into tennis when he was 3 years old and watched his two older brothers, Adam and Matej, playing. Over time, he came to enjoy the way the sport creates challenges for the solo athlete as well as for the team the athlete is on.
Kianicka, who was a member of the Slovakian national team and won several titles in his home country, represented Slovakia in three international tournaments before he was 18. While in Brazil for a tourney, he was spotted by a coach who recommended him to then-SIU head coach Dann Nelson.
“That's what got me to SIU,” Kianicka said.
The only time Kianicka had been to the United States prior to coming to SIU was for a week when he was 18 months old. He had challenges in learning conversational English and with the cultural differences.
There also was the challenge of leaving behind those close to him.
“That was the first time I was without my family and my friends … basically anyone I knew for my 18 years of life,” he said.
Kianicka adapted and now keeps in touch with family and friends via social media and Skype.
SIU seniors Piotr Baranski and Wilder Pimentel and junior Alex Pozo also made the all-conference team.
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