Friday, April 12, 2024

From Opava to Murfreesboro; how Ondrej Horak made his mark on MTSU tennis

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Featured photo by Preston Todd

Story by Brett Walker   

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MURFREESBORO, Tenn- Middle Tennessee men’s tennis (14-9) is fresh off a bye week and gearing up for its last five regular-season matches. The Blue Raiders have had another solid year under 13-year head coach Jimmy Borendame. Borendame has gotten a lot out of good tennis out of his seven transfer students this season, but his greatest asset might just be the second-year man, Ondrej Horak.  

The sophomore began playing tennis at an early age along with soccer and basketball. At the age of nine Horak chose to pursue tennis, but it was just for fun until he started playing tournaments. Tennis became an even bigger part of his life after he hit a growth spurt.  

“When I was maybe 14 or 15 years old, I was still small, I didn’t grow up,” Horak said. “And then, when I turned 17, I got some muscles, I grew a little bit, and then my rankings were higher. And then my (International Tennis Federation) juniors career was way better.”   

Horak is from the city of Opava in the Moravian-Silesian Region of the Czech Republic. The city of about 56,000 people is about 4,937 miles from Murfreesboro. Horak had multiple offers but ultimately chose MTSU because of a connection to home. MTSU alumni Stepan Holis convinced Horak that MTSU was a good choice. The two crossed paths growing up, as Holis’ hometown of Zasova is only 41 miles from Opava. Holis was a graduate student at MTSU in 2022, and his talk with Horak factored into the Opava native’s decision.  

“I had a call with him, and you know he was saying some good things about coaches and the program and the players,” Horak said. “So, I decided that I was going to go here, and so far, I’m happy, I’m excited.” 

The decision to attend MTSU has paid off for both parties thus far. Horak is currently tied with his doubles partner Leo Raquin for the most singles wins this season with 13. The sophomore, Horak, and the transfer senior, Raquin, have been a dynamic duo for MTSU, bolstering a 13-4 record in doubles this season.     

Horak and Raquin’s success boils down to their chemistry on and off the court. The pair share the same competitive nature. The senior offered compliments towards his sophomore partner.   

“He’s a good tennis player obviously, I like his game style. It fits mine,” Raquin said. “He’s aggressive, he has a very good return. Other than that, he’s solid. He can have some great volleys with great touch. Off the court he’s a great friend. I think that’s most important, to like your doubles partner.”    

Despite only being in year two at MTSU, Horak has quickly made lasting memories with the program. Last season, winning the Conference USA Tournament was a good memory while losing in the NCAA Tournament to Mississippi State was a bad one. Horak created a new memory earlier this year, when the Blue Raiders avenged last year’s tournament loss, beating No. 22 Mississippi State 4-3.  

“Beating Mississippi State at home, the atmosphere was crazy, and we wanted to get that W,” Horak said.  

While Horak has already made an impact at MTSU, he is still consistently working to improve. Having already improved his serve and movement, he and the coaches’ current focus is on forehand dominance and coming to the net more. MTSU’s coaching staff has taught him a great deal, but the biggest thing Horak has been forced to learn while away from home is maturity.  

“I got mature, I think, you know, we have to be out here by ourselves, no family,” Horak said. “We have to do everything on our own.” 

MTSU’s sophomore standout may have traveled a long way from home to join the program, but his success proves that it was the right decision.  

Brett Walker is a sportswriter for MTSU Sidelines. For more news, visit www.mtsusidelines.com, and follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on X and Instagram at @mtsusidelines. Also, sign up for our weekly newsletter here.

 

  

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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