Bronco tennis star Jan Macek graduated from Santa Clara University last year with one year of eligibility remaining. After spending the fall quarter getting his MBA at Santa Clara and serving as an assistant coach, he decided to return to playing for his final year of eligibility. In his final season at SCU, he has given the Broncos a huge boost, playing No. 1 singles every match but one, while beating a number of highly touted opponents. He also has put together a 21-7 record in doubles, including a 17-5 mark with fellow senior Bobby Rasmussen. This weekend, he leads the Broncos into the West Coast Conference Championships in San Diego as the No. 2 seed.
Macek sat down with SantaClaraBroncos.com to talk about his career, his future and how he came to Santa Clara.
When did you start thinking about coming back to play this year?
At first I just wanted to get a job after I finished school last year. That did not really work out so I had a chance to go back to school for my MBA and be the assistant coach.
While I was coaching, I started talking to my friend back at Southern Mississippi where I first went to play. He kind of encouraged me to try and play one more year back there. He talked to the coach there. That kind of got me going. I wasn't sure if I could come back, but the idea was in my head. I started exploring opportunities and it worked out here at Santa Clara. I am glad that I made the decision to come back here.
What kind of job are you looking to get with your MBA from SCU?
I want to get into economics in some capacity, maybe financial analyst. I hope to get something in the Bay Area.
What has been the biggest reason behind the team's success this year?
The key reason has been that we are more of a "team" this year. Last year we had a very young team and we did not have a lot of leadership. I was one of the people last year who was supposed to lead and I did not handle every situation the right way. That hurt us and we ended up finishing fourth in the conference after losing to USF. That was a big learning experience for us. Now we have much better leadership with Bobby, Kevin and me because we all know how to handle situations better. That helps a lot.
Has that loss to San Francisco last year in the conference tournament motivated the team this year?
No one has talked about it much. Bobby, Kevin and I have had it in our minds though and we have tried to learn from that so that we don't make the same mistakes. We want the team to play more consistently and we have done that this year.
You have played No. 1 almost every match for two years. Do you like the pressure of leading the lineup like that?
I am excited to play every match because I know that I am going against the top player from the other school. I have played a number of ranked players this year and that motivates you to rise to the challenge.
Is there one match that you can point to that was the most exciting this year for you?
My match against Arizona was great. It was 3-3 overall in the match so it just came down to me to determine the match winner and both teams were out there supporting their player. It was a very intense match against a ranked player and I pulled it out. That was pretty good.
Everyone knows that you have a great backhand that some teammates have nicknamed the "Laser." How did you develop such a strong backhand?
My dad was always telling me, "You have to improve your backhand." It was pretty weak when I was younger but I kept practicing and practicing my backhand until I got more confident. Then I started using it a lot more in matches and I started going to it to win points.
Do you set yourself up to hit your backhand?
Oh yeah. I love to hit my backhand.
Give us a preview of the WCC Championships.
We can't underestimate Loyola Marymount on Friday. They are a good WCC team and all the conference teams are pretty solid. We want to go out and play well and try to get to the next round. If we get to the next round, we will have to play San Diego on their home court so it would be a very exciting match. But we have to focus on LMU first.
You played a lot of ranked teams early. Did that help the team as the season went along?
It definitely helped us develop a competitive edge that we used against other opponents on the schedule. It gave us the confidence to face the lower ranked teams and know that we could beat them. We played a lot good matches against those highly ranked opponents so we knew we had a good team.
Reflect on your emotions of Senior Day last Sunday.
I was very happy to have another Senior Day. It was even more fun to have Bobby (Rasmussen) come back from his injury and play with me in doubles. We got a big win and it was just great to be out there competing with him. We played the whole season together before he broke his hand, so it was very important to me to have that last match at home with him.
Did your friendship with Bobby help you with the decision of whether or not you should come back to play?
My friendship with Bobby was one of the biggest factors in making me want to come back. He encouraged me to do it and got me excited about it again. I have enjoyed playing with him this year.
What do remember most about this season?
I will remember that every single match has had something different. Every player has come through in different matches. I will remember this season as the one where everyone stepped up at different times to help the team win. Everyone has had a chance to come through and everyone has done it.
Talk about how you came to U.S. to play tennis.
I started recruit myself to all of the coaches after high school in Germany. I had to complete a year of military service over first. I had a big data base of coaches and I sent out emails to all of them. I even applied to Santa Clara originally, but George (Husack) requested video and I did not have a good one to send him so I did not come here. I had a 90 percent scholarship offer at Florida State. I went there for a recruiting trip for my first ever visit to the United States. I enjoyed it, but I was not eligible at the time so I didn't go. I then talked to the Southern Mississippi coach because he had a German player on the team at the time. I ended up going there, but I had to sit out a year. The year did not go as well as I hoped. I talked to Gernot Fisher, a former Santa Clara No. 1 player, who grew up near me in Germany and he encouraged me to transfer to Santa Clara. He lived seven miles from me in Germany so that helped. I called George and I ended up coming. I am glad that I made that decision.