Translated from Russian, it means “let’s go.”
While it can be heard on the tennis court, it is also a fitting theme for Mansur Gishkaev and Dmitry Vizhunov, the men’s tennis team’s heralded freshmen recruits. The Russian rookies have come to North Broad Street in hopes of serving up an Atlantic Ten Conference Championship.
“Socially, both are fitting in real well,” coach Steve Mauro said. “Both are getting along well with their teammates.”
The past four years, Gishkaev, who didn’t compete last semester because he was academically ineligible, was living at the Bollettieri Academy in Florida, where he had a successful career with wins over top 10 players.
“The experience I had there was priceless,” he said. “It made me more disciplined.”
Vizhunov, whom Mauro found through the Russian recruiting service, is 5–8 combined from the fall and spring and is enjoying his experience in America so far.
Gishkaev and Vizhunov mentioned the main reason for their arrival in Philadelphia was the city life and the food.
“It’s a big city,” Gishkaev said. “I always heard about Philadelphia cheese and cheesesteaks.”
Vizhunov, who at age 14 was ranked No. 1 in Russia, chose to play in America because he has the ability to play the sport he loves and receive an education at the same time.
“I can play tennis and get an education,” he said. “In Russia, you only get to choose between education and sport.”
While he didn’t play in the fall semester, Gishkaev was able to practice, get in shape and focus on adapting to the city and building a relationship with his new teammates.
“I learned to manage my time,” he said. “I get to play, [take] time to learn and then make time to rest.”
Gishkaev, from Moscow, and Vizhunov, from Sochi, never met before coming to Temple. They have played each other twice in practice – with each winning once.
There is one thing Mauro has not figured out yet about his new imports: their native language.
He wishes he knew more about their language because when they scream a phrase in Russian on the court, he has no idea what they are saying.
But Mauro speaks confidently of both and is expecting them to contribute immediately.
“I expect him to be one of our top players,” Mauro said of Vizhunov. “I think once he gets acclimated he’ll be a solid performer.”
On Gishkaev: “He’ll be a major contributor in both doubles and singles.”
And the Owls need that kind of contribution.
With two more underclassmen and a total of seven international players on the eight-man roster, some on the outside would see the Owls competing at a high level as a challenge.
But not Mauro.
The Owls, who won the Philadelphia City 6 Championship in the fall, have their sights set on loftier goals. To achieve them, they are going to need help from their young crop, which is led by the Russian duo.
“I think early on it’s going to affect our record,” Mauro said of his young roster that has started the spring 1–3.
“It’s a unique experience to have college athletes to be able to live and play and learn a different culture.”
Pete Dorchak can be reached at email@example.com.