Baylor freshman Adrian Boitan has learned a lot about his ability to adapt in the last four months.
Boitan, from Constanta, Romania, had never lived outside of his home country before coming to Baylor in January. He’d never played team tennis, so the Bears’ primary form of competition — dual matches — was new as well.
But give him a racket and put him on the court and Boitan has proven he’s ready for whatever comes at him.
“I guess I’m just good at adapting,” Boitan said. “To be honest, I can play with whatever racket they gave me, whatever strings. I can adapt pretty good to any conditions.”
When singles play in any given college match begins, there’s no telling which of the six courts will swing things in one team’s favor. Lately, though, all eyes have regularly turned to Boitan, playing in the No. 3 position for the Bears. He has won the clinching points in three consecutive matches, including the Big 12 Tournament final against Texas and the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
“Adrian, he loves the moment,” Baylor coach Brian Boland said. “He’s somebody that really has embraced the pressure of playing in the arena in college tennis. He loves every moment of it. … He’s just done an amazing job as a first-semester freshman. He’s Big 12 freshman of the year for a reason. We’re lucky to have him and he does an unbelievable job competing for the Bears.”
Indeed, Boitan has thrived in high-intensity moments. While some competitors might block out all external factors and focus on each point, the Romanian freshman allows himself to take in his surroundings.
“When I see the people coming from the other courts to my court, it’s just like, ‘Ok, now I’m going to play way better and just put a show on,’” he said.
Boitan might get that chance again as No. 6 seed Baylor (24-5) hosts No. 11 seed UCLA (19-5) in the third round of the NCAA Men’s Tennis Tournament at 6 p.m. on Friday at the Hurd Tennis Center.
This is the first year that this round is called a “Super Regional” and sends the winner on to the national quarterfinals in Orlando, Fla.
Baylor, which won the 2004 national championship, gets to play on its home court against the 16-time national champion Bruins.
“A Baylor-UCLA match, with both programs having rich tradition, on a Friday night. Doesn’t get any better,” Boland said.
The Bears haven’t lost at home this season, compiling a 15-0 record. UCLA will certainly test that.
As they prepared for the third round of the NCAA Tournament, the Bears players seemed to embrace the possibility of an intense match on their courts. It’s easy to see why Boitan is ready for another round of pressurized tennis since he’s excelled in those moments.
“If you asked me, I wouldn’t change anything,” Boitan said. “I’m doing my best in school and on and off the court. I did everything I could with my preparation. This is just the reward from the hard work that I put forward.”