At 16, sophomore Mike Sroczynski left his home in Chatham, N.J., and moved to San Antonio, Texas, to attend Roddick Tennis Academy on scholarship.
“(Living with Sroczynski) was fun, but a little dirty,” said Michigan freshman Drew Daniel, Sroczynski’s roommate at the Academy. “But he improved a lot.”
And since he arrived at Michigan last year, Sroczynski has continued to improve. He was in and out of the lineup last season, playing mostly in the No. 5 position. But this season, Sroczynski has been a dominant force while playing at the No. 2 and No. 3 positions. He was the only Michigan player to win a singles match against No. 1 Virginia on Feb. 3.
Last Sunday, Sroczynski got a huge opportunity. Based on his undefeated record this season, Michigan coach Bruce Berque put him in the No. 1 slot for the first time in his career. But Sroczynski lost the match 7-6, 6-3 to Vanderbilt’s Ryan Preston.
“I think it was his worst competitive match of the year,” Berque said.
Berque attributed the loss to Sroczynski’s lack of confidence during matches.
Sroczynski has historically struggled with his demeanor during competition.
“I used to have a hot temper,” he said. “I used to scream and yell and get pissed off on the court.”
As a Wolverine, Sroczynski has controlled his temper but has struggled to stay positive.
“When he came to college he was hurt, his confidence was low and he was out of shape,” Berque said.
In his match against Notre Dame last year, Sroczynski was tied with his opponent through the first set – but his attitude affected his game.
“Toward the end of the first set, he missed out on an opportunity on a big point,” Berque said. “And after that, the match was over.”
Berque has formed new ways of countering Sroczynski’s tendency to give up. He uses video recordings to show Sroczynski exactly where and when a match turned sour.
But videos can only do so much.
“There’s no substitute for winning,” Berque said. “As he wins more and more matches, he will get more and more confident.”
Berque knew that Sroczynski would be a tough project from the start. While recruiting the sophomore, Berque saw natural power and raw ability but also some deficiencies in his game.
“If he was willing to work on (his game) and make some technical improvements, I felt that his potential was through the roof,” Berque said.
And with his intimidating 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame and booming voice, Sroczynski has the ability to carry the rest of his team.
“He’s usually going to be the biggest emotional presence on the court,” Berque said.
His congenial personality makes Sroczynski a respected part of the squad.
Two years ago, after his official visit to Michigan, the players on the team begged Berque to offer him a spot.
“He’s the guy I always want to sit with at dinner,” freshman and doubles partner Jason Jung said.
Physically, Sroczynski is the largest member of the men’s tennis team, but his play still needs to grow if he wants to be the best player.
Conditioning, footwork, defensive play and court mentality are just some of the areas Berque and Sroczynski continue to focus on in practice.
But if his improvements from last season to this year are any indication of his potential, he’s in good shape.
And because NCAA rules forbid a player from dropping more than two spots between matches, Sroczynski will have another chance to prove himself at a top-three spot against Northwestern this Friday.