People are finally cheering for Marton Bots.
The concept might seem a little strange to him, though, because he spent all of last year doing the cheering. Bots, a sophomore on the Washington men’s tennis team, wasn’t eligible as a freshman.
The Hungarian native lived in Barcelona, Spain, for part of his senior year of high school, honing his tennis skills and going to school at night. Since his time in Spain postponed his graduation, he lost his freshman year of eligibility.
“In our sport, there’s a rule where you have to finish with your high-school class,” head coach Matt Anger said. “[Bots] took an extra year in Spain to graduate, and it’s just an incredibly harsh penalty in our sport that they have, where you sit a year and lose the year [of eligibility].”
And so Bots waited that year, and this past Friday night against Pacific, he was on the court playing in his first match as a Husky.
“It was unbelievable,” Bots said. “I was really looking forward to [the match]. The guys were really excited, and I was nervous in my first match, but I think in my second set I played all right.”
His singles match versus Pacific went into a tiebreaker, and he was able to pull out a dramatic 7-6(6) win, making Bots’ first collegiate match worth the yearlong wait.
“I think the most impressive and exciting part was the first moment when I was on the court and warming up against my opponent,” Bots said. “That was a shocking moment with all of the crowd up there. It was a great feeling.”
After only being able to support the UW by cheering his teammates on last season, it’s finally Bots’ turn to have the favor returned — something that Anger feels the entire team is more than happy to do.
“[Bots] was right there, supporting all of the guys each and every possible time he could [last year],” Anger said. “So I think the guys are happy to repay that support and really look forward to him being out there and know that he’s truly sacrificed a whole year to be able to be out there and play for us.”
Transitioning to college isn’t usually easy for anyone. Throw in the fact that Bots came all the way from Hungary, and it gets even harder.
However, Bots’ time away from Hungary when he lived in Spain helped make moving away from his family easier.
“I lived in an apartment with several guys in Spain as I’m doing now,” he said. “So I’m kind of used to living alone and not seeing my family.”
Bots also has a handful of other international players on the UW roster that have been through the same transition. One of those players is senior Martin Kildahl, who remembers his big move to Seattle.
“Luckily, I had some European guys here that were seniors and juniors when I came, and the same was for Marton,” Kildahl said. “But it’s still tough: You leave your family, your friends, and you have to adapt to being alone. Everything is on your shoulders now, and you don’t really have good friends right away.”
Recalling last week’s match against Pacific, Kildahl was happy to finally see Bots on the court and not in the stands.
“It was obviously great for all of us [to see Bots play],” he said. “He’s just a happy guy. He makes the team atmosphere so much better, and we all really like that he won and got a good start.”
Getting used to the rain in Seattle wasn’t too tough for Bots, but he was a bit shocked when he realized how different both college and tennis were in the United States.
“[College tennis] is different than in Europe,” he said. “[At the UW], there are a lot of sponsors, we get clothes, we get rackets, we have an unbelievable facility, and the coaches are just unreal.”
Even the courts are different. Bots grew up playing on mainly clay courts in Hungary, but Anger sees him making a fine adjustment to hard courts at the UW.
“[Bots is] a very talented, all-core player, and I think he’s grown up playing a lot on clay like a lot of guys from Europe have,” Anger said, “but his game is very suited for hard courts. He’s going to be able to do just fine.”
Now eligible, Bots carries over the same attitude that he approached the past season with. His primary role in practice and during matches last year was being the team supporter, and he doesn’t plan to change this now that he’s playing.
“I’m trying to build the team chemistry as hard as possible,” he said. “I’m always a team guy, 100 percent.”
Reach reporter Pete Treperinas at email@example.com.
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