One of the youngest Men’s Tennis teams in UC San Diego history has come on strong at the end of the regular season and extended its streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances to 10 in a row. UCSD will challenge top seed Hawaii Pacific this week in the first round of the NCAA West Regional. One of the key factors in the Tritons’ success has been the play of senior Kazumi Negishi. The El Cerrito, Calif. native has moved into the No. 1 singles slot and teams with Erik Elliott at No. 1 doubles. “Kaz has had a great year and to have the record he has at No. 1 singles and doubles is really remarkable,” says Head Coach Eric Steidlmayer. “He’s got speed, tenacity, and an outstanding forehand. Kaz has also grown a lot, this year especially, and learned to deal with adversity much better.” A management science major who plans to graduate in June, Negishi spent time recently discussing his UCSD career and the 2009 team.
Q: Does it seem surprising that your next match could be your last at UCSD?
NEGISHI: It’s definitely surprising. Four years have gone by pretty fast and if it is my last match I will miss it a lot. I loved the competition and it’s tough knowing that I will never get to play college tennis again.
Q: What do you consider the strengths and weaknesses of your game?
NEGISHI: My strengths are probably my forehand, speed, and competitiveness. I probably shouldn’t be mentioning my weaknesses in case the Hawaii Pacific coach is reading this (laugh).
Q: What’s been the biggest change in your game since you stepped onto the UCSD campus as a freshman?
NEGISHI: The biggest change would have to be my doubles game. My instincts on the court and my volleys have improved tremendously.
Q: What impact has Coach Eric Steidlmayer had on your approach to tennis?
NEGISHI: He has really helped me with the mental side of my game. I used to always have trouble focusing during practices and keeping my composure during matches, which got me in a lot of trouble. Eric has really helped me focus and relax more on the court and worry less about outside distractions, like myself.
Q: As the only senior on the 2009 UCSD roster, how has your role in the team dynamic shifted from previous years?
NEGISHI: Well my first three years we always had plenty of upperclassmen. Our end goal was to always win a national title and I felt like I was always just a piece of the puzzle. Now with so many young freshmen, I feel like my role on the team is to help anyone who’s having trouble on or off the court. I feel like I’ve been through it all during my four years and through my stories and experiences, I feel like I’ve helped the freshmen class not make the same mistakes that I made.
Q: After a somewhat rocky start, UCSD has won eight of its last 11 dual matches. What do you think is the reason for that and will it have any bearing when you meet Hawaii Pacific (a team that defeated UCSD, 7-2, earlier in the year) in the first round of the NCAA Division II Tournament?
NEGISHI: The reason we are doing so much better is because as a team we are getting more confident. Every player is getting more match experience, which is so important for us when we face Hawaii Pacific.
Q: Which of the younger players on this year’s team have you been most impressed with? Who do you expect to see at the top of the singles ladder in a few years and why?
NEGISHI: Well we have such a young, talented team that any one of them could play at the top spots in a year or two. Jake Fellow and Sam Ling have impressed me the most because both of them are holding down the bottom spots in the lineup. They have both clinched huge matches for us and both have the mental and competitive drive to improve on their tennis game. All of the young guys on our team are great. I can’t wait to see how they progress in a few years.
Q: From a personality standpoint, how does this UCSD team differ from others you’ve been part of?
NEGISHI: This year’s team is very close, and like years past, we all hang out with each other off the court. The main difference with this team compared to years past is that we have no egos on the court. We play as a team and unlike years past, we all love tennis.
Q: What does UCSD have to do in order to beat Hawaii Pacific?
NEGISHI: As a team we have to all play really well. More specifically, our doubles needs to step up and play a really clean match. We barely lost to them earlier in the year while missing two of our starters, so as a team we know we can compete with them.
Q: You’ve had success in both singles and doubles. Which do you prefer and why?
NEGISHI: Most, if not all, of my success this year has come at doubles. However, I prefer playing singles because I love the one-on-one competition. I love playing big points and big matches when my team needs me to win.
Q: Do you plan to continue playing tennis after your collegiate career has concluded?
NEGISHI: I definitely plan on playing tennis after I graduate. I will probably play some local tournaments or come out to some of the practices next year.
Q: If you were starting college again, what is the one thing you would do differently the second time around?
NEGISHI: I wouldn’t do anything differently. I’m glad I played four years of college tennis. Looking back, I realize how big of an accomplishment that is. My only wish is that what I know now on the tennis court, I knew when I first came in.
Q: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
NEGISHI: I love watching baseball in my spare time. I’m a huge San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s fan.
Q: You’re a management science major. What is on your agenda following graduation?
NEGISHI: I am set to graduate this spring. My plan is to stay in San Diego and get ready to enter the real world.
Previous Q & A Articles
Laiah Blue (Women's Track & Field) April 16, 2009
Ryan Andre (Men's Crew) April 2, 2009
Josh Tanner (Baseball) March 24, 2009
Anju Shimura (Women's Swimming) March 7, 2009