Overseas Tennis Players Return to GC

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Ben Grunert | Senior Writer

COVID-19 kept many foreign GC tennis student-athletes in their home countries during the 2020-21 fall semester.

Two members of the women’s team returned to the United States last month, while three members of the men’s team also made a January arrival. Although five GC men’s tennis players hail from overseas, two of them spent the pandemic in the United States.

Returning senior Matt Rogel originates from France. However, he elected to stay in Milledgeville during the COVID-19 quarantine. The 2018-19 ITA All-American will look to bounce back this spring after a shoulder injury prematurely ended his 2019-20 campaign.

Returning juniors Emilia Richter and Kim Yatribi are the only two overseas talents on the women’s team. Richter hails from Berlin, Germany, and Yatribi is from Frejus, France.

Richter and Yatribi exclusively took online classes in the fall semester, completing their courses remotely from their home countries.

“Online classes were not fun at all, but I was glad the professors still gave me the opportunity to participate,” Richter said. “They put everything online for me, which was really nice. I’m glad I could at least continue my studies.”

With a six-hour time difference for both women, Richter and Yatribi dealt with more adversity than most students typically would.

“I had two classes where I could not attend the Zoom calls because they were in the afternoon here, but they were at midnight where I was,” Yatribi said.

Yatribi navigated her tests with class PowerPoint presentations and readings from textbooks, but this proved quite difficult at times. Fortunately for Richter and Yatribi, the teammates returned to campus last month and are taking many in-person classes this semester.

“The transition was kind of weird at first, going from a lockdown situation to being here and going to classes and seeing people again,” Richter said. “Now, I really appreciate it. I love being able to go to class again and having a professor talk to me, rather than just listening to someone over Zoom.”

From the GC men’s tennis team, returning junior Lukas Zavrel, freshmen Enzo Sergi and Jorge Robinson all arrived in Milledgeville this semester. Zavrel is from the Czech Republic, where COVID-19 hit hard.

“The situation in Czech Republic was kind of bad,” Zavrel said. “Everything is still closed, and we’re on lockdown, so things are not going well.”

Despite the hectic situation in his home country, Zavrel made his decision to stay in the Czech Republic quite easily. He had experience with online classes from the spring semester in early 2020, so he was well-prepared for remote learning.

“It was a good option for me because I got to stay with my family, and I really enjoyed that,” Zavrel said.

Also dealing with a six-hour time difference, Zavrel struggled with some late class times. For this reason, he greatly welcomed his new courses this semester.

As is the case in many European countries, most public workout facilities shut down in the wake of COVID-19. In the Czech Republic, gymnasiums and tennis courts closed and left Zavrel with minimal training options.

While COVID-19 introduced several obstacles for all GC athletes, overseas athletes arguably faced the most challenges of anyone. Even so, GC tennis players expressed great optimism for the upcoming spring season.

“Obviously, this season is going to be kind of different,” Yatribi said. “I want us to play as many matches as we can this semester, and I just want us to have as much fun as we can.”