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Sports Person of the Week
Wiszniewski Thrives in Two Crucial Roles
Mateusz Wiszniewski helped the East Haven boys’ tennis team have its best season in recent memory with his performance at No. 1 singles and his leadership as a senior captain. (Photo courtesy of Mateusz Wiszniewski)
Mateusz Wiszniewski didn’t pick up a tennis racquet until shortly before his freshman year at East Haven High School. In the span of a few seasons, Mateusz not only realized how much he loved tennis, but also that he could potentially succeed in the sport, leading him to the role of No. 1 singles player and a senior captain with the East Haven boys’ tennis team.
Prior to entering high school, Mateusz saw his sister Natalia compete for the Yellowjackets’ girls’ tennis team. Since she had two racquets, Natalia asked Mateusz to play tennis with her just to try it out. While his first time on the court was difficult, Mateusz soon realized that tennis was the right sport for him.
“I was looking for a sport to play. I needed to play at least one. My sister played tennis, and I was willing to give it a try,” says Mateusz. “My sister had two racquets and asked me to play tennis. I played one weekend. It was really hard, but I kept giving it a try. After my first practice, I really loved it. It really did resonate with me.”
Mateusz spent his first season competing at the JV level as he learned the game alongside his new teammates. Although his transition into tennis took some time, Mateusz learned a lot by playing against colleagues like Mat DiVito, Oliver Gonzalez, Gabe Olszewski, and Minh Trinh, who were also freshmen at the time. The group continued to grow as tennis players as the years went on, resulting in a successful 2021 season as seniors this spring.
“I wanted to start fresh. I had only picked up a racquet for maybe an hour and a half. It was me and my four really good friends,” Mateusz says. “We started playing at the same time, and we’re still playing today. We couldn’t hit the ball over the net. But we just kept going with it. We knew it could only get better. And we’re still going at it today.”
Mateusz made the jump to the varsity level as a sophomore, alternating between No. 4 singles and No. 2 doubles for the Easties. By playing varsity, Mateusz got to see how talented other players around the state were and what he needed to do to get to that level.
“I played very tough teams my sophomore year. It gave me the experience of how much some people are better than you. You might think you’re pretty good on the team, but there’s a whole other world out there of tennis players,” says Mateusz. “I learned that you could never really expect anything. Anything could happen. It helped me adapt to different situations against different people.”
While he didn’t compete as a junior due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mateusz still spent plenty of time on the court. Mateusz and his teammate Olszewski joined the North Haven Health & Racquet Club and played tennis there throughout the year. Even though he wasn’t competing, Mateusz made sure that he continued to improve his game. Mateusz always looked up to captain Rob Scalese when he was a freshman and wanted to emulate that type of work ethic.
When he returned to the Yellowjackets as a senior, Mateusz earned his spot as East Haven’s No. 1 singles player in the 2021 campaign. Mateusz embraced the challenge of taking on some of the top tennis players in the state and finished the season with seven victories at No. 1 singles.
Head Coach Anthony Perrotti was happy to promote Mateusz to the top singles spot. Mateusz was looking to improve his serve this year, so he hit 50 extra balls before every practice. Coach Perrotti says that Mateusz’s teammates saw how hard the senior captain was working and knew that he was ready to be a leader for the team.
“Mateusz has a great work ethic. He is at every practice and is the first one there, last one to leave. His work ethic was never in question,” Perrotti says. “He knows what he needs to improve on. He is not someone to tell him what to work on. He has taken the younger guys along with him. He has made it become a natural thing that guys are out there before practice. It has trickled down to our younger guys.”
In addition to playing No. 1 singles, Mateusz was also named one of East Haven’s senior captains alongside DiVito and Trinh this year. Mateusz knew that being a captain would lead to more responsibilities. He approached the role with the utmost seriousness and enjoyed every moment of it.
“There are a lot of responsibilities. Sometimes coach needs a message sent out to people. I have to be able to talk to others,” says Mateusz. “I help coordinate before and after practice. It’s a big responsibility, but I do really enjoy it.”
East Haven posted a record of 8-9 on its way to qualifying for the Class M State Tournament this season, marking the team’s first appearance in states in 13 years. With many of his teammates joining the program as freshmen and sophomores, Mateusz feels that it was quite an achievement for the team to make states. Mateusz he feels proud of his fellow Yellowjackets for how hard they’ve worked and how far they’ve all come.
After graduating from East Haven, Mateusz will attend the University of New Haven to pursue a degree in computer engineering. While the school doesn’t have a varsity men’s tennis team, it does have a tennis club, and Mateusz plans on joining to continue playing the sport that he loves.
At first, tennis was just a way for Mateusz to bond with his sister. Over time, though, Mateusz found a home on the court in a sport that truly allowed him to be himself, while forming relationships with both teammates and opponents.
“I like to bond. I’m a very extroverted person. Even though someone might be across the court from you, you can still have a conversation,” Mateusz says. “It’s more of yourself. In tennis, you’re always playing with someone, and I really do enjoy that.”