Earlier this year, freshman Artem Kapshuk sat alongside his hitting partner, freshman Uladzimir Dorash, after practicing with each other in Poland.
Kapshuk was considering college, but vying to improve his ranking as a professional first, while Dorash was trying to earn a scholarship to play in the United States, which he had been working toward for more than two years.
“The average age for a pro in the Top 100 is around 24, and that’s when you start earning money,” Dorash said. “It’s a long way, and I told him, in college tennis, you compete a lot and practice for free with a good coach and team, and you get an education. There’s nothing better than that.”
With the armed conflict in Donbass, Ukraine evolving over the past two years, Kapshuk—a native of Kiev, the country’s capital—struggled to cover expenses and eventually lost his coach and hitting partners, who chose to stay home with their families during the war.
Dorash, who is originally from Grodno, Belarus, was living with his coaches at a private tennis academy in Poland when he convinced Kapshuk to play with him.
“When I met him at a tournament in Cyprus, and I told he can come to the practices with me and work with my coaches,” Dorash said. “We played maybe four-or-five tournaments a year, so we always saw each other. He’s the closest guy on the team for me because we’ve know each other for so long.”
The two also traveled to International Tennis Federation juniors tournaments together across Europe and played doubles together for two events in Israel and Cyprus.
This fall, Dorash has a 4-2 singles record, while Kapshuk is 4-1 in singles with a tournament win at the Joe Hunt Invitational B Flight Singles Sept 27.
“I’m glad I’m playing really well for the team,” Kapshuk said. “They’re always supporting me.”
The two played doubles together against La Salle, Rider University and at the Princeton Invitational, standing 2-2 on the season. The freshman duo could be a doubles pair for the Owls to the start the spring season.
“They could be playing this spring together, but I don’t know as of yet,” Mauro said. “We’ve been playing them in doubles, and they’ve played well together, but it’s early in the season and we’re going to keep experimenting.”
When Kapshuk, a former Top 350 ITF ranked junior, came to Temple this fall, he never played for an organized team in tennis. At several ITF tournaments, the 18-year-old traveled with his coaches and said he never anticipated the welcoming he’s received from his teammates since attending Temple.
“I really like it,” Kapshuk said. “We have a good team and they’re supporting me. It felt different, but now it feels really good. Coach Mauro is almost always on the court giving me support and telling me good decisions.”
Kapshuk and senior first singles player Santiago Canete, who posted a 6-6 singles record last fall, could play for the top spot in the spring 2016 lineup.
“Right now, there’s no lineup intact,” Mauro said. “Artem has played well against a lot of his teammates. The best thing about him is that he plays with a lot of spirit. It’s fun to watch him.”
Mark McCormick can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @MarkJMccormick.