Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Despite growing up as one of the top juniors in all of Europe and having early success, Mate Zsiga ( Mah-tay Zhi-ga) was left searching for something more to play for than himself. He needed an inspiration and a purpose.
"Back in Hungary all I had to play for was myself," the Baylor tennis freshman said. "I basically went out and was trying to get better."
Being good at tennis has never been a problem for Zsiga. He learned how to play the game at a very young age from his father Laszlo Zsiga, who was a professional tennis coach. By the age of three, Zsiga was swinging a tennis racket and as he grew into his teenage years he displayed a very refined skill set to play the game.
Zsiga was the first Hungarian to win the European Junior Masters, and was ranked No. 1 in the 16-and-under division by the European Tennis Association in 2008. He was also the seventh-ranked junior player by the International Tennis Federation, while also reaching the quarterfinals of the Olympics in Singapore.
However, the success in his home country and around Europe did not satisfy his hunger for something more.
Zsiga wanted to be a part of a collegiate program that was successful and had a history of developing top level talent. When he began looking for a university to attend in the United States, Texas, Texas A&M, and USC came calling. The talented freshman also caught the eye of Baylor head coach Matt Knoll.
"We knew how good he could be and wanted to try to get him here," Knoll said.
The family atmosphere at Baylor gave Zsiga the inspiration and the sense of belonging that he was looking for. Not only was Baylor a place where Zsiga felt that he could find inspiration, but he really was sold when Knoll traveled to Hungary for a visit.
"Going and seeing the players in their home countries is something that I really try and do," Knoll said. "I like to go and visit with the parents and really try to give them a sense of what Baylor University is all about because Baylor is not for everybody."
Maybe Baylor is not for everyone, but when Zsiga came to visit the facilities he knew that this is where he wanted to be.
"When I walked in and saw the trophies and how much success that Baylor has had I really felt that this where I could find my inspiration," Zsiga said.
Now that he is at Baylor, he is making some noise on the courts.
"Mate has been a pleasure to coach," Knoll said. "We didn't really know how mature he would be, but he has been focused all season and has really been working hard."
This season for No. 32 Baylor (12-8, 0-1), Zsiga has produced a 14-2 dual-match record with all of his matches coming at the No. 1 singles position. The 14 wins are tops on the team, while his 28 overall victories are also first among all BU netters.
As an individual, Zsiga is ranked No. 21 in the country with wins over No. 5 Eric Quigley (Kentucky), No. 51 Mikelis Libietis (Tennessee) and No. 53 Clay Thompson (UCLA).
With some early success now under his belt, Zsiga can now work on honing his skills to continue a long line of Baylor greats who hail from Hungary including Zoltan Papp, Csonger Bibza and four-time All-American Denes Lukacs.