Halfway around the world from his native Russia, Andrey Goryachkov still feels at home on the tennis court.
Goryachkov is an 18-year-old sophomore ranked No. 2 on BYU’s men’s tennis team. Ever since he joined the team this winter, Goryachkov has shown that he means business.
“He had no benefit of the fall and pre-season the other players had and did an unbelievable job under those circumstances,” said head tennis coach Brad Pearce.
Within two weeks of arriving at BYU and practicing with the team, Goryachkov already had his first singles match against another school.
“It was difficult, because I wasn’t used to how collegiate competition worked, or any of the facilities,” Goryachkov said.
The hasty start, however, didn’t dampen any of Goryachkov’s talent, and he continued through the season to clinch many key matches, including a 4–3 victory over Boise State. Goryachkov put up a 6–2 record in just two months of single play.
Goryachkov’s tennis career started at an early age. His father played and coached tennis in Russia, and Goryachkov had a racket in hand when he was just six years old. Later in his tennis career, Goryachkov participated in tournaments in the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Germany, making it to the semifinals in each country. At one point, he was ranked 29th in Europe in the 14–16 age group for boys.
“He is a fearless competitor and has a killer instinct,” Pearce said. “He rises to the occasion in big moments.”
Goryachkov is excited for the upcoming season and stays motivated by constantly looking for ways to improve his game.
“I didn’t play my best individual game last semester,” Goryachkov said. “I want to see progress in my game, and I want to help my team and help my school.”
While he has a polished backhand, he looks to improve his forehand stroke and help lead his team to perform well.
“He has started to step up and take a leadership role,” Pearce said. “We need that especially this year with most of our team being freshmen.”
Goryachkov said he knew he wanted to come to America to further his education and tennis career. Tennis is a widely played sport in Russia, but the country lacks the programs existing in the United States allowing players to study and compete at the same time.
Goryachkov is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; he is a member of the Russian Orthodox Church and said he doesn’t mind the prevalent Mormon culture at BYU and enjoys using what little free time he has to hang out with friends.
“He’s just a fun-loving, good-natured guy who can be a little bit of a jokester sometimes,” Pearce said.
Goryachkov is no stranger to hard work, either. During his first semester at BYU, he woke up every morning to meet with his Russian-affluent academic mentor at 6:30 a.m. He is currently working toward a degree in political science, while continuing to study English.
With all the changes Goryachkov has faced, he said he misses the simple things most.
“I miss Russia, and I miss my home. I live in a very beautiful city. I miss the food the most. American food is … different,” he said, smiling.