Kristian Marquart wanted to be a martial artist.
When he was 7 years old, his father came into his bedroom and told him he was going to either play tennis or take taekwondo lessons. Marquart picked taekwondo.
“I said I wanted to do taekwondo because of the Jackie Chan movies,” Marquart said. “I tried it for a few months, and all the Asian kids were much more flexible. I didn’t enjoy it at all, so I changed my mind. I wanted to be a tennis player.”
That decision has served him well. Marquart, a sophomore, has taken his second choice and turned it into a college scholarship, something that he spent much of his life trying to get.
“The main goal from the beginning was to bring me to college tennis, or to try to make me a professional,” Marquart said.
After he decided to play tennis, he began practicing every day. Marquart grew up in Moscow, Russia, where he attended the Spartak Tennis Club, a prestigious training ground that has trained many professional tennis players, including two-time Grand Slam winner Marat Safin and 2008 Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva.
Mikhail Youzhny, currently the 30th ranked player in the world, also trained at Spartak. Marquart has met Youzhny, and considers him his athletic idol.
“Not only is he a good tennis player, but he also knows how to behave and how to treat people off court,” Marquart said. “I think it is pretty hard for a player who is being told he is the best in the country.”
Eventually, his family moved to Munich, Germany, to help further the swimming career of Marquart’s younger sister. Marquart continued to flourish, winning the Munich Championship as a sophomore in high school. By then, he knew he wanted to attend college in the United States.
“I always knew education in the U.S. is much more expensive than Germany,” Marquart said. “So I knew if I practiced hard, I could get a scholarship to play tennis. This was the goal from the beginning.”
To get a scholarship, he knew he had to be a good student and a good tennis player.
“My parents came to Germany just to make sure me and my sister had a good education and became successful in life,” Marquart said. “They told me that education is always first. When I did that, I could do what I liked, which was play tennis.”
Marquart, an international business major, said Temple was his first choice, mainly due to Fox School of Business and the tennis program. He fit right in when he arrived in January 2012.
“Kristian is a pleasure to be around,” coach Steve Mauro said. “He’s a 4.0 student. He’s a good kid on and off the court.”
Marquart said he is a big fan of the school’s location, as well.
“I like the fact that it’s in Philadelphia,” Marquart said. “It’s not in some village where you need four hours to get to a city. Temple is pretty close to Center City. I didn’t want to go somewhere where there was just the university and nothing else.”
Marquart and his teammates take advantage of that. Freshman Hicham Belkssir, a good friend and teammate of Marquart, said the team often goes to Center City to dine.
“We go sometimes to restaurants to eat,” Belkssir said. “We hang out in study hall or go to the TECH Center together to do homework. We don’t go to those big parties off campus.”
Marquart said tennis and schoolwork take up most of his time, so when he does have free time, he usually hangs out with his teammates.
“If I have free time, I meet with other guys from the team,” Marquart said. “We don’t only meet to practice, but to hang out with each other, get some good food, talk a little bit. Nothing crazy.”
Tennis is not the only sport the players are fans of.
“We like talking about soccer,” Marquart said. “[Freshman] Nicolas [Paulus] and I support Bayern Munich, and a few other guys support Barcelona. We sometimes end up in a discussion about them.”
“We watch soccer matches together,” Belkssir – a Barcelona fan – said, adding that both Marquart and himself believe their team to be better than the other.
Marquart still has more than two years before he has to decide what he does after Temple, but he already has a general idea.
“A business job is the long term goal,” Marquart said. “If tennis is going well and I am improving, I might play some futures or try to go pro. I might go collect some work experience somewhere and then get my MBA. It’s only my third semester. I have some time to decide.”
While he figures it out, he will be leading the Owls in their quest for an Atlantic 10 Conference title.
“Kristian is one of our team leaders,” Mauro said. “He’s working harder this year, and he’s got a good game. He’s gotta put some more work in, but he’s definitely as talented as anyone in the A-10.”
Evan Cross can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @EvanCross.