Growing up in Inzlingen, Germany, Moritz Baumann began playing tennis when he was five years old. Sixteen years later, the junior for the No. 43-ranked University of Wisconsin men’s tennis team (7-2) is enjoying a great amount of success.
Last Sunday, Baumann and his sophomore doubles partner, Marek Michalicka, defeated the No. 1-ranked Wake Forest (5-4) doubles team of Cory Parr and Steven Forman at the Nielsen Tennis Stadium. Ranked 18th heading into the match, Baumann and Michalicka defeated the Demon Deacons 8-4, despite being down 4-3 at one point, and improved their record together to an impressive 7-0.
“It means that we’re up there, probably in the top 10 in doubles and that we can compete with every team out there,” Baumann said of the victory over Wake Forest. “It gives us a lot of confidence thinking about playing in the NCAAs for doubles.”
While last weekend’s match was certainly difficult, Baumann is no stranger to challenges. Entering the country and arriving at the UW in January 2006, Baumann has had to adjust not only to tennis in America, but also to a foreign culture.
“It was pretty tough for me to adapt to college tennis and the new culture here,” Baumann said. “Being from Germany, they obviously don’t speak the same language here. … The school, the language, getting used to everything was pretty tough.”
While Baumann’s difficult beginning here is very understandable, his career has seen very few, if any, struggles. As a result of his tremendous play against Wake Forest, where he also improved his singles record to 9-0, Baumann earned his third weekly Big Ten award of 2009. Additionally, Baumann is ranked No. 36 in the nation in singles. While talent is obviously a large factor in his success, head tennis coach Greg Van Emburgh sees more in Baumann, especially in his doubles play.
“They really complement each other really well, and they really just enjoy each other,” Van Emburgh said. “Obviously they’re great tennis players, but part of doubles is communication and enjoying playing with your teammate, so they really have that, and I think that’s a big part of their success.”
Michalicka, the No. 60-ranked singles player in the nation, is also an international player from the Czech Republic, and he agrees that Baumann’s success is due to a large variety of factors.
“He’s a great guy and a great friend; he’s very reliable, and he’s probably my best friend here,” Michalicka said of Baumann. “We’re both from Europe, so we understand each other well. Also, we are similar types of guys, so that helps a lot.”
Not surprising considering the level of success he has already reached, Baumann has hopes of one day playing in the ATP World Tour. In Germany, he grew up watching the tour and followed tennis greats such as fellow German Boris Becker. However, Baumann says, he did not idolize any particular tennis players. Rather, his role models came from two sources outside of tennis: his father, and one of the most famous German athletes to play in America, NBA star Dirk Nowitzki.
Van Emburgh recognizes the influence that growing up outside of the country has had on both Baumann and Michalicka.
“It helps them as a team,” Van Emburgh said. “They have some similarities, being both from Europe. I think that definitely helps them.”
Coming up, the Badgers will host North Carolina State and Notre Dame this weekend at the Nielsen Tennis Stadium. With the Big Ten Tournament less than two months away, the team is already looking forward to see how far they can go.
“You don’t ever really want to speculate,” Van Emburgh said. “Obviously they beat the number one team in the country, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s how they play on that particularly day, they can play with anybody in the country and obviously have a great chance at winning the match.”
Baumann, however, is still enjoying the season as it progresses.
“It’s been a great experience so far; I think I’ve improved my game, got a lot of confidence over the last couple of weeks,” Baumann said of his experience this season. “I won all my single matches, and with Marek, we won all of our doubles matches. I feel really good about myself and it gives me a lot of motivation to keep working harder.”
Clearly, Baumann has exceeded every expectation that faced him since coming here three years ago. He is enjoying both his past successes and his success so far this season, while also looking forward to a potential professional career after he graduates. Despite this forward-thinking mindset, however, Baumann is not about to forget what he went through to get to where he is now.
“I’ve learned a lot of things about myself and about life, and it’s always good seeing other countries and other cultures,” Baumann said of his transition from Germany to Wisconsin. “It’s really helped me a lot, all these experiences.”
Baumann has a very good chance to compete at the NCAA tournament in doubles with Michalicka, and also might have an opportunity to compete in singles as well. Having these chances not only provides more opportunities for success, but also allows Baumann to add to the already long list of experiences he has had since leaving Germany for the U.S. The crowning achievement on that list, however, may very well not come until he is long gone from the University of Wisconsin: a chance to win a championship on the ATP World Tour.