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2009-10 Ohio State Men’s Tennis
Feature No. 3
Feb. 5, 2010
By: Alex Morando, Ohio State Athletics Communications Student

COLUMBUS, OHIO – Most children growing up in the United States play baseball, basketball or football around the house. But for Balazs Novak, a native of Budapest, Hungary, a tennis court in the backyard was the familiar backdrop.

“I first started playing tennis around the age of eight in my backyard,” Novak, a junior on the Ohio State men’s tennis team, said. “It was a tennis court covered in grass and we used wooden rackets. The court, which was made by his father, didn’t have any lines, but he would cut it every once in awhile to keep it short.”

A “field of dreams” is what one could say about Novak’s childhood home as he dreamed about becoming a professional tennis player in his backyard.

His father, Janos, built the court when the family lived in the small town of Levelek, which had a population of only 3,000 people in the eastern part of the country. Novak said his father did not play competitively, but did research a lot about the sport. 

“My dad saw that I loved playing the sport as a child and decided to read up on it,” Novak said. “We worked on my footwork a lot, which is how he taught me. We would come out in the morning and just started hitting balls. He could play a little bit of tennis, but he never competed.”

Novak said his sister, Viktoria, was the one that the family thought would continue to play tennis, but Novak persisted to practice and worked hard to develop as a player.  

“I was around the age of 11 when I began to compete in tennis matches,” Novak said. “My dad started to take me to tournaments and I was successful.”

In 2000, Novak won his first major tournament when he was 13 years-old.
 
“The tournament consisted of some of the best talent around and I was able to win it all,” Novak said. “That is when the Hungarian Tennis Association decided to give me practices from the capital. From that point, I started to travel to Budapest every Wednesday and I practiced there for half of the week.”

With more practice time, Novak began to shine in his home country.

Novak was the Junior Hungarian National Champion in both singles and doubles competition and owned the No. 1 ranking in the Hungarian junior standings.

“I would describe my tennis game with my quick feet,” Novak said. “I think I am more of a defensive player, but I like my overall game right now.”

Novak should be happy with his game. In 52 career dual matches, Novak has just lost three. During his first year as a Buckeye, he was 19-0 in dual play and followed with a 29-3 dual record last season.

Matt Allare, a junior on team, has roomed with Novak for the past two years and said his roommate is one of the fastest tennis players he has ever seen on a court.

“He [Novak] is one of the hardest workers on the team,” Allare said. “He is just a machine out there. The guy just never misses, runs out every ball and makes you work for every point. He also has a cannon of a serve.”

Not only does Novak know how to win matches, but he can also do multiple tricks with his racket and a tennis ball.

“I used to do most of my tricks when I would practice with my dad,” Novak said. “At that time, I wasn’t just concentrating on tennis but other sports too and it was a good way for me to have balance and good hand-eye coordination.”

Novak, who is majoring in International Business Administration, will have an important role on the squad this season and said the younger guys on the team will need to perform for the team as well.

“I think if the lower classmen will make that commitment to improve their games and give everything they have, I think we can go pretty far this year.”

For Novak, Ohio State is the next step in his dream to play on the professional tour.