The Many Flags of Men’s Tennis


Curtis Lin

Dan Little returned the ball with a forehand as the Utah Utes Men’s Tennis team take on the Utah State Aggies at George S. Eccles Tennis Center in Salt Lake City, UT on Sunday, January 21, 2018. (Photo by Curtis Lin/ Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Leif Thulin

All athletic teams are formed differently to combinine unique personalities, yet the University of Utah men’s tennis team especially exemplifies diversity in background, with 5 of its 11 members of the team having been born outside of the United States. Furthermore, head coach Roeland Brateanu hails from the Netherlands and assistant coach, Graeme Cox, is from Australia. The international flavor helped to build a cohesive unit that made the NCAA tournament for the first time in 21 years just last year, the team finishing 19 and 10 on the season, competing in the talented Pac-12 conference. The tennis team, with many of its key contributors returning, looks to build upon last season’s success and will hopefully return to the NCAA tournament.

Guiding the internationally heavy squad is head coach Roeland Brateanu, who is looking to guide his team to the NCAA’s in a rugged Pac-12 conference using a unique formula. Almost half of the players he has coached for the past five years have become international players. Most teams in the Pac-12 rely on their pedigree and names to sell and cherry pick American talent. In these five years, Brateanu has led the Utes to their best three-year record in school history, landing at 53-30. Coach Brateanu himself played for Utah for two years. Being from the Netherlands, he perhaps established a European pipeline for many years to come, although Brateanu says, “the ball is round and you have to play the game regardless of where you’re from.” Coach Brateanu described his team as a very talented group, “hungry to prove last year of making the playoffs on an at large bid was not a fluke.” Their team goal is to improve on last year’s success, consistently ranking in the top 25 rather than cracking it for a week. Under Brateanu’s leadership and with a talented roster, the Utes look primed to make a deep run.

Senior Dan Little is the number one singles player for the team and consistently battles the top players in the country in the brutally competitive Pac-12. Coming from London, England, Little leads this tightly knit squad from diverse origins, overcoming cultural and linguistic divides, finding the solace that the team members came here for — playing gritty and beautiful tennis matches. According to Little, the team runs well because many of the players come from Europe, and the American members who come from different backgrounds.

“It’s comforting to know many of the players come from far away as well, and I can get to know everyone knowing I’m not the only one who comes from a different culture,” Little said. He echoed this sentiment with beliefs that the team is closer knit than an average American-based team due to being forced to come together, united by their various origins. Together, regardless of hometown or country, the team has one united goal of making a dent in the NCAA’s, and their undeniable chemistry will certainly help.

In addition to Little, junior Svyatoslav Shainyan (Slava), from Moscow, Russia, a first team Pac-12 All Academic member during his sophomore season, will look to bolster a solid configuration. Transitioning to becoming a veteran leader, Shainyan is hoping to carry over his immediate personal success as a freshman (15 wins) and beginning to lead the team while continuing to improve his record.

The multilingual Men’s Tennis Team communicates using English and the unique terms specific to tennis. Traversing the barriers of diverse backgrounds and origins to become one has created an incredibly strong group aspiring to improve and together make a deep run in the NCAA’s. Whatever colors they dawn nationally, they all unite in crimson and white. 

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