It’s safe to assume a baseball player struggling to hit has heard the phrase “get this guy a tennis racket,” but could the opposite be said about a hot-streaking tennis player who seems to hit everything that comes his way?
Such is the case for the towering 6-foot-3 senior of Idaho State University’s men’s tennis team, Krzysztof Stempien.
Before falling to University of Idaho’s Felipe Fonseca, Stempien hadn’t lost a singles match in eight straight contests based partly on his unique style of play.
“My game is quite unusual, nobody really plays like me,” Stempien said. “Guys are used to the fact that everyone tries to hit the ball as hard as possible, while I try to hit the ball softly. I’m more about the precision and placement of the ball rather than power.”
A unique style of play coupled with hours spent on the practice courts have provided Stempien with what appears to be an advantage over other players. He said it’s not just about practicing, but practicing hard that really improves his game.
For the last four years Stempien has spent two to three hours every day of the week and sometimes a few hours on the weekend practicing, something he credits to his success on the court.
“From freshman year to senior year, [Stempien] has made huge progress,” said Bobby Goeltz, head coach of the men’s tennis team. “If you saw him play [his] freshman year you wouldn’t even recognize him as a player,” he said as his head swiveled back and forth tracking the ball.
Stempien is from Lodz, Poland and graduated from Tadeusz Kosciuszko’s High School in 2011 before attending Idaho State University where he was recruited for his natural tennis ability.
Before arriving at ISU, he had won several championships, defeated numerous players in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) junior world rankings, and was ranked in the top 30 from ages 12 to 18.
“I started playing tennis when I was eight years old, so it’s been 14 years already,” Stempien said. “After graduating, I was looking to play college tennis in the United States so I recorded my tennis video and emailed it to a bunch of coaches in the U.S. I received the best offer from ISU so that’s why I came here.”
His young career as a tennis player has allowed him to travel to many different places, including Germany, France, the Czech Republic and various locations across the United States.
In addition to playing tennis he also enjoys playing soccer and snooker, a variation of billiards. Regardless of the sport he remains as competitive as possible.
“I just hate losing,” he said. “I think the worst feeling is when you lose a match you know you could’ve won if you would’ve just played better.”
Stempien’s four-year tenure at ISU includes two Bengal Athlete of the week awards (twice in one year), Big Sky All-Academic honors, and last year he was named team co-MVP.
Although, his favorite tennis player of all time is the legendary Roger Federer, Stempien said his playing style more closely resembles that of retired French professional, Fabrice Vetea Santoro.
“I think it was a perfect choice to become a tennis player,” Stempien said. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else, I like other sports but I really love tennis.