Polish professional tennis player adjusting to college game

Polish professional tennis player adjusting to college game

By Ted Ward, @TedWard_DE

SIU men’s tennis, which was comprised of four foreign players compared to two domestic coming into the season, added another nonnative.

Junior Piotr Baranski arrived from Poland and joined the team Feb. 12 with an impressive resume. He joins three other Europeans, two Americans and a South American on the tennis team, which is 5-1 so far this season.   

Baranski turned pro when he was 19 years old and was ranked as high as 1,210th in the world in doubles and 1,856th in singles. He has won 18 championships in his home country.


Coach Dann Nelson said when looking for players, country doesn’t matter — it’s all about where he can find the most talent. 

Baranski picked up his first two collegiate wins against University of Illinois — Chicago during the weekend to get his first taste of what college tennis is like.

He said the biggest change for him has been the level of competition and the lifestyle change. 

“I played pro-level players for a few years and learned a lot from the challenges I had there,” Baranski said. “The difference between Europe and America is we focus only on tennis, and here it’s more focused on academics as well as being an athlete.”

Nelson said he is excited to have Baranski at SIU and the experience he brings will help the team be even more competitive.

“We have a really solid team as it is, but adding him helps us have a better chance at meeting our goals,” he said. “We hope that he can help us to an undefeated record at home, a conference title and a national ranking.”

Junior Michal Kianicka, of Slovakia, knows about making the transition across the Atlantic. He said adding Barankski not only helps the team against the competition, but also pushes him to be a better player.


“Piotr is very competitive and can play anywhere in the lineup we have,” he said. “For me and the other top guys it challenges us to play harder and just shows you how deep as a team we’ve gotten.”

Nelson agreed saying Baranski will play in whatever spot he fits in. He has played in the No. 3 slot so far, compiling a 4-0 record. With senior Jonny Rigby, who is second in SIU in all-time wins, graduating, a No. 1 or No. 2 position next season is a possibility for the former pro.

“[I] don’t know if there is any specific reason Piotr chose us,” Nelson wrote in a text. “We are very happy he is here.”

The Salukis are back on the tennis court against Austin Peay at noon Friday in Carbondale.

Ted Ward can be reached at [email protected] or 618-534-3303