No matter that he has been ranked as one of the best junior tennis players in Europe and the best in his country — at Tech, Phillip Gresk still must slog through classes just like everyone else. “They’re a grind,” he laments. As a part of the core of Tech’s tennis team for the past four years, Gresk will be finishing up his final season in the white and gold this spring, highlighting a talented squad poised for contention in the best tennis conference in collegiate athletics.
Originally from Poland, Gresk has anchored Tech’s tennis squad, which is off to a 3-2 record on the year already. Gresk left his native land — with a little help from his parents — to pursue his dream of playing competitive tennis. “When I was four years old, my mom signed me up for tennis lessons after school … as I got a little older, I started playing more and more, and I started liking it a lot: enjoying being on the court and playing tennis,” Gresk explains. So when Gresk was seven years old, his parents decided to move to Florida to allow Gresk to train at the prestigious IMG Tennis Academy, which has graduated such tennis superstars as Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Jim Courier. “It was a pretty big investment from their side,” he notes of his education.
From there, Gresk underwent a brutal training schedule. “I was playing in Poland mainly in the summers, living and practicing [in America] in the winter,” Gresk says. He would balance classes and practices as a junior tennis player, developing during the school year and showing off in European tournaments. Gresk captured a gold medal in doubles during the 2011 European Youth Olympics and was ranked the No. 1 junior tennis player in Poland before coming to Tech.
The decision to go to Tech and not begin his professional career upon turning eighteen, however, was a difficult decision for Gresk; “When I was 13, 14, everyone was always asking me if I wanted to go pro, and I was always saying, ‘I want to go to college instead.’ But that changed a little bit afterwards when I was a little older, I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll go pro instead because I’m doing pretty good.’” Only after wrestling with the decision and encountering some potential difficulties in turning pro did Gresk decide to take his talents to college. Even with offers from other schools in hand, Gresk decided to go to Tech because Tech’s recruiting staff made him feel wanted. “I bonded with the team really well, and [men’s tennis coach] Kenny [Thorne] really wanted me here… it was a perfect fit.”
A perfect fit indeed. Gresk has anchored Tech’s lineup. He has picked up some big wins over the years, including remaining undefeated in the 2017 Georgia Tech Invitational, but looming largest in his mind is when he can contribute to the team. Asked what he felt his biggest victory had been, Gresk cited Tech’s 2016-2017 team making it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. “We had a really good team that year,” Gresk says.
Could Tech get back to the tournament this year, in Gresk’s final season of eligibility? It’s an uphill battle. “[The ACC teams] are all really tough,” Gresk says, “The top teams — Wake Forest, the defending national champions and No. 1 in the country, North Carolina’s always up there, Virginia’s always good as well… they’re all really good in the ACC. There are no weak teams. Every single team will be a tough match.”
In his last season at Tech, Gresk is looking towards the future: “I’m definitely going to try to go play pro after [my collegiate career] — it’s something I’m looking forward to. I’m going to go and play on a tour and see how that goes, give it a year or two and see where I am after that.”