Getting to Know … Filip Vittek

USD tennis player Filip Vittek

AGE: 23

HOMETOWN: Trnava, Slovakia

MAJOR: Communications (minor in Marketing)

RESUMÉ: Vittek hit the ground running (and winning) at USD, earning Male Torero Rookie of the Year honors as a freshman on the strength of his impressive 8-0 record against WCC rivals in doubles. Since then, he’s become a stalwart for Men’s Tennis Head Coach Ryan Keckley, amassing a career record of 67-31 (through the 2015-16 season) in doubles, and 64-29 in singles. Not too shabby for a guy who joined the team on the fly. Literally. “I was going to go to school in Wisconsin, but two weeks before I was scheduled to leave, something happened with their coach and they canceled my admission. So, basically, I had to decide where I could go to school in the U.S. in two weeks, or fly back home to Slovakia. I’m glad it worked out the way it did, though. I’m really happy here.”

DOUBLE THE FUN: At 5’9”, Vittek doesn’t fit the traditional mold of the tall, long-limbed serve-and-volley player, but he loves to get to the net and end points quickly. That aggressive style makes him a natural for the doubles game, and his results prove that bigger isn’t always better. “I’ve had success in both singles and doubles, but I played a lot of doubles when I first joined the team, and it became what I was known for. I’d say I like it more than singles because the pace of the game is so much quicker. I also really like developing a strategy with my partner, and how you have to often adjust that strategy as you go. You’re using your body and your mind.”

PAY IT FORWARD: When he arrived at Alcala Park three years ago, it took Vittek a little while to adjust to the Southern California lifestyle. “To start with, In Slovakia, we don’t have an ocean, and it can get really, really cold in the winter. Walking around in shorts in winter was a new experience for me.” But the adjustment was more than just trading in snowshoes for sandals, and he’s happy he had mentors on the team to help manage the culture shock. As senior and team leader, he’s happy to return the favor. “You can see it with some of the young guys, especially the ones who are coming from other countries, like myself. It’s a big adjustment, but we’re a family on and off the court, and it’s important to support the guys who may be struggling with the language and culture. I’ve been there.”

STRIKE A POSE: When you’re practicing hours-upon-hours a day and playing tense, competitive matches several times a week, it’s not a question of if injuries happen, but when. Vittek’s managed to stay relatively injury free during his playing career at USD, thanks in large part to his commitment to yoga. “It’s so great for recovery, and when you’re practicing and playing a lot, it’s hard to give your body time to heal. The little things become big things quickly, and the stretching I do with yoga has really helped me stay flexible and injury-free for the most part.”

CLUTCH: Like most athletes, Vittek aspires to be at his best when his team needs him most. And more often than not, he delivers. “My favorite moment on the court at USD came a few years ago in the spring tournament we co-host with SDSU. We were in the final against Drake University, and if I won my singles match, we would win the tournament. I won, and the whole team rushed the court. I have video of that match that I still watch when I need that extra motivation. It was so cool.”

 

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