NIU men’s tennis recruits players from around the world

By Andrew Singer

NCAA officials don’t usually have to worry about men’s tennis coaches having excessive contact with potential recruits.

NIU head coach Patrick Fisher first meets the bulk of his recruits after a scholarship has already been offered. The second-year coach would like to get to know his future pupils, but traveling 5,000 miles just to talk to a player isn’t practical.

Of the nine players on Fisher’s roster, seven were born outside the United States. Fisher is forced to recruit outside the country, because the top American players don’t normally choose mid-major schools.

“For the level that the MAC wants to compete at, having international players is a must,” Fisher said. “I can get a top international player that might be a top 50 player in the United States that probably wouldn’t come to a MAC school.”

It takes a keen eye and a handful of tennis-wise friends to find the best international recruits according to Fisher.

“I get a lot of my recruits from friends that I played college tennis with that are in coaching now,” Fisher said. “They might have a player or two that they might turn on to me.”

Once Fisher finds a player to his liking, he looks at film to break down the player’s technique. A coach can’t judge a person’s character just by looking at film, though. So, Fisher uses e-mails and phone calls to form a positive relationship with the player.

International prospects are usually eager to come to a country where they can play tennis and work toward a degree at the same time. Sophomore Maksym Bartiuk‘s native country of Ukraine would have forced him to choose between turning professional and going to school.

“My main goal was to get a great education and play tennis,” Bartiuk said. “Tennis is my life.”

Before enrolling at an American university, all foreign-born recruits are required to take an English proficiency exam called the TOEFL Test (Test for English as a Foreign Language Test). A passing score is supposed to ensure the student-athlete can keep up with the academic rigors of college.

Roman Turtygin passed the TOEFL Test with flying colors. Upon his arrival last January, though, the junior realized that American life is more complex than the test suggested.

“The test wasn’t very difficult, I don’t know why,” Turtygin said. “When I came here, though, my language wasn’t as good as what I got on my TOEFL test.”

Turtygin struggled initially with classes, but has since made a lot of progress with his English. To ensure that players are keeping up with their classes, NIU sets up mandatory study halls for the foreign-born student athletes.

“It’s an adjustment, which is why we keep track of them,” Fisher said. “We require them to have a certain amount of hours in the study hall. We try to keep them as involved and as busy as possible.”

Both Bartiuk and Turtygin have adjusted well on the court.


Bartiuk won MAC Newcomer of the Year last season, while Turtygin has hovered at the top of the singles lineup the last two seasons.