Acuna and Andrukhoua established men’s tennis’ winning culture

Men’s tennis’ lone seniors Sebastian Acuna and Andrei Andrukhou both took different paths to get to Georgia State, but as their time winds down they will both go down as winners.

“I saw Georgia State grow from three and a half years ago until and I see how it’s growing exponentially and it makes me feel so much happier that I can say I’ve been a part of such a program here at Georgia State,” Acuna said.

The two players come from entirely different backgrounds but have grown together as teammates and friends over their four years at Georgia State.

Andrei Andrukhou

Andrukhou is a native of Minsk, Belarus. He started his tennis career when he was 6 years old. His brother discovered tennis and took Andrukhou to play with him one day, and from there he learned to love the game.

“At the beginning, it was just for fun so I could do something else after school,” Andrukhou said. “And then in a couple of years I was actually getting really good, and I was one of the top players in my country, and by 12 or 13 I was trying to go professional.”

Andrukhou contemplated the idea of moving to America to continue his career but was unsure because of the distance, language barrier and the fact that he didn’t know anyone. But he decided to give it a shot and credits former Georgia State head coach Brett Ross for helping him feel comfortable enough to make the move.

“I didn’t know if I wanted to come to America or not in the beginning and then once I decided I wanted to come I started speaking with the head coach who was Ross at that point and he started telling me about the team, about the school, about the program and their future plans,” Andrukhou said. “I was really excited about this opportunity, I also wanted to be in a big city.”

Andrukhou decided to pack up his bags and come to Georgia State, where he would continue his tennis career.

“The first semester I would say that I didn’t really like it because everything was new and it was just a hard time for me, but then after a year, I got used to it,” Adrukhou said. “I met a lot of people, and made a lot of friends, started liking it, and now I don’t want to leave. I want to stay here.”

Playing tennis at Georgia State turned out to to be the right decision because he has had a great career. Andrukhou is a two time Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week winner, with his most recent coming on April 11, 2018. He was named All-Conference Doubles Second Team in 2016 and 2017. Along with that, he was named to the All-Conference Singles First Team. Andrukhou was instrumental in the Panthers’ Sun Belt championship run last season. He was 13-6 playing in the No. 2 position and won his match in the title game against South Alabama.

“I’ve been here for three and a half years, and it [has] been my best three and a half years of my life,” Andrukhou said.

Sebastian Acuna

Acuna, like Andrukhou, began playing tennis at a very young age. Acuna knew that playing professional tennis was his goal and he made a commitment to it. His family decided that it would be best if he was homeschooled in the seventh grade because of the strain tennis was putting on his schooling.

“I chose to be homeschooled, and I was able to practice four more hours over my days, and with my training, I was getting way better, and that’s where my level started peaking,” Acuna said. “I started blossoming as a tennis player, and I would say it’s solely because of being homeschooled.”

Acuna didn’t have many options when he finished high school because he ran into problems with his recruitment, but Ross was able to sell him on the program and all of the opportunities that Georgia State could offer. Since he didn’t have many options, Acuna decided to take a flyer on Georgia State.

“I decided to come here for a year or so, try it out and I ended up falling in love with the school,” Acuna said. “I couldn’t leave, I settled in so well, grew such a great network, and I just knew this was meant to be.”

He has done well as a singles player during his career, with his best season coming as a junior when he had a 16-4 record in the fifth position. The senior plays singles and doubles, but he prefers to play singles.

Acuna has seen constant growth in himself as a player and a person since his freshman year when he said he was once a “hot head on the court”, and wasn’t ultra-competitive, but that has now changed.

“I’m an aggressive guy, so when I came into State I used to yell on the court, throw my racket and go crazy,” Acuna said. “My teammates, they were kind of like guidance on how I should behave. I remember I used to get into a lot of arguments with my seniors; we bumped heads a lot because I would always try and put on that alpha male mentality, but they taught me how to cool down and the mindset that you’re supposed to have as a freshman and as a sophomore.”

Now with their collegiate careers winding down, both Acuna and Andrukhou want to repeat as conference champions, but with such a young team the pressure is on them as leaders to make sure that everyone is ready to go.

“I think our chances are looking good,” Acuna said. “We just got to enforce ourselves on the younger guys and make sure that they are comfortable, we don’t want them to get spooked on the court . Andrukhou and I have the personality where we can kind of force that whole mentality towards our young team.”