Long Island Tennis Magazine had a chance to chat with Jericho, N.Y. native Bryan Koniecko, a senior at Ohio State University. Bryan has been ranked number in the country for most of the year by the NCAA.
Did growing up on Long Island influence your tennis for the better or the worse?
Long Island is a great place to grow up, but not an easy place to become a great player. Social life, balance, concentration of life, and academics are all perhaps more intense here than in many other places. Obviously, the weather in Florida is more suitable for tennis, but time efficiency is important and you had better learn to use your time well here since it is very expensive to play indoors. With my game, I do believe that playing indoors helped me become a better overall player since I worked on different things, which helped me improve by being more aggressive and diverse. The U.S. Open is right next door, so you can see the best players in the world nearby. Of course there are also great facilities on Long Island and many good players in the area.
What was the best moment of your tennis career?
My experience at Junior Wimbledon was great. I traveled there with my coach, Steve Kaplan, and we had a really terrific time. There is no place like The All England Club anywhere else in the world. It helped me gain experience to even a greater accomplishment in playing the Men’s U.S. Open. Having three Big 10 titles with the team at Ohio State means a lot to me, its a different feeling playing for the team.
What was the worst moment of your tennis career?
After my mom passed away, I left a week later to play ITF tournaments in South America. There were both good and bad things about the experience. It was tough being away from my family at a time like that, but it also helped me get away and sort of clear my mind. Even though it was such a difficult time, I knew that she wouldn’t have wanted me to stop doing what I love, so I continued to play.
What advice can you give Long Island junior players about developing their game, managing their expectations and choosing the right college?
First off, I would say to start with basics. Technique is very important and fundamentals help you play more efficiently. Mentally, you also have to be strong on the court. What most don't realize is how fitness and flexibility play a big role as you improve your game. Many players are born with talent, but fitness is the factor that separate the best players.
It is good to establish some personal goals, but if you don’t achieve them, don’t give up. Instead, keep working harder. Also, managing expectations from parents or coaches can be difficult. Every parent deals with expectations in a different way and some are harder than others. In the end, every parent means well and you cannot take it personally if they are tough. My coach, Steve Kaplan, didn't judge on wins and loses, but more on performance and the way I acted out on the court and the effort I gave which is more important in the long run.
As for collegiate advice, I’d say to seek out and find a school with a good balance. A good tennis program is obviously important if you want to take tennis to next level. A coach you get along with and can work with is a very important aspect of you college learning experience. Finally, don't go for the best “name” school, find a place that is a good fit for you.
What does the future hold for you?
I have another quarter of school to finish in the fall before I graduate and get my degree. Then, I intend to play professional tennis. I have been offered a scholarship at IMG Academies in Florida and that will be a great base to train from. I hope to break the top 200 in the world rankings in under two years and perhaps continue to be top 100 in the world. I am very happy that no matter what happens, I will have a degree to fall back on if things don't go well with my tennis career.
What is something that few people know about Bryan Koniecko?
I said on my school bio that I enjoy kickboxing, where in reality, I never even tried it. I guess I like pulling pranks on my teammates and friends. I think its hilarious. I would also love to learn how to surf, that would be pretty cool.