Frantisek Stejskal, more commonly known as Fanda, can't even remember the first time he picked up a tennis ball. But he does remember his mother yelling at him as he ran through the house, rocketing shots at the chandeliers. Years later and thousands of miles away from his home, Stejskal's destructive escapades seem to have paid off, as he holds the No. 1 position on the Penn men's tennis team. A native of Prague, Stejskal grew up living and breathing tennis. Everyone in his family, minus one grandmother, was or is involved in the sport. Tennis is in Stejskal's blood, stemming from his grandfather, a former member of the Czechoslovakian Davis Cup team. "I was around tennis all of the time," Stejskal said. "My parents probably wanted me to play, but they never really pressured me to do it -- I just did." As Stejskal's tennis career progressed, his desire to pursue his education did too. However, he found himself interested in business and economics, two subjects that required moving away from his home country. "The Czech Republic, with its 40 year history of communism, wasn't the place to be," Stejskal said. "The teachers just teach out of books, but they have no real experience with capitalism." As a result, Stejskal searched for a university to attend in the United States. After much deliberation, he chose Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he could play tennis on scholarship and test his knowledge of the English language. His experience in Waco wasn't exactly what he thought it would be, however. Even though he was playing for one of the best tennis teams in the nation, he wanted out. "It was probably the worst year of my life," Stejskal said. "The coach was mean and he treated the entire team horribly. I would have rather gone home than stayed another year at Baylor." But instead of going back to the Czech Republic, Stejskal explored his options as a transfer student. His interest in Penn was sparked when a friend of his family had attended the university and as he suffered in Waco, Stejskal reexplored the idea of attending school in Philadelphia. The move couldn't have been better for him. Not only does he love Philly and Penn, he is actually enjoying the game of tennis again. And the Quakers are happy to have him on their team. Playing at the No. 1 position for Penn, Stejskal has proved himself to be an extremely valuable player. Last season, he dazzled the Ivy League with his talent and determination, winning a spot at the NCAA Tournament -- an honor that no Penn player had received since 1972. This season, Penn men's tennis coach Mark Riley has even higher expectations for Stejskal -- qualifying for the tourney in both singles and doubles. "He's a fantastic player with tremendous talent and a ton of experience," Penn co-captain Rob Pringle said. "Fanda is quick and he plays intelligently. He mixes paces, shots and angles." But, although he has been highly successful at Penn, playing overseas hasn't always been easy. Stejskal was forced to adapt his game a bit when he arrived in the United States. Having played on clay courts most of his life, the pace of his game had to change. Stejskal is still learning to compensate for the differences between his game back home and here at Penn. "They serve better here and they capitalize on it," Stejskal said. "The game is much faster here, but I make up for it. I have a wide variety of shots and decent technique." As far as improving his game, Fanda and his teammates agree that its all a matter of concentration and focus. "When he's on his game he's very, very tough to beat," senior co-captain Eric Sobotka said. "He just has to focus and go out there and score the points." Off the tennis court, Stejskal tries to keep a positive attitude and stay relaxed about his game. He spends most of his time either on the court or hitting the books, but allocates time for his fraternity, AEPi, and his long-time hobby of photography. "Fanda always has a joke, regardless of the situation," Sobotka said. "He is always making light of the situation." As his studies intensify and the new tennis season kicks off, Fanda is focused on improving his game and keeping up his grades. No matter how busy or overwhelmed he gets, he is always able to keep working and reminding himself of one thing -- at least he's not in Waco.Comments powered by Disqus
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