Road tests and tough competition define Purdue's spring slate.
In five years as Purdue's head men's tennis coach, Pawel Gajdzik has transformed a program. As the ninth head coach in program history, the Szczecin, Poland, native, has taken the Boilermakers into the national spotlight while his student-athletes continue to excel in the classroom and rise on the court. The increased level of talent that Gajdzik has brought into his program leapfrogs the year's previous Purdue player that held the title of highest-ranked incoming freshman. It's this high-level talent that Gajdzik is rewriting records with and setting a new standard for Boilermaker men's tennis as he embarks upon his fifth season.
Since his first season during the 2009-10 campaign, Gajdzik has guided a trio of players to All-Big Ten second team honors, including three-time selection Mark Kovacs (2011, 2012, 2014), two-time pick Szymon Tatarczyk (2011, 2013) and Ricky Medinilla as a freshman in 2014. Medinilla was also Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Ohio Valley Region Rookie Player of the Year in 2014. He has had 11 individuals combine for 19 Academic All-Big Ten accolades and 10 individuals have combined for 16 ITA Scholar-Athlete distinctions. Gajdzik has also had four squads be named an ITA Academic Team (2010, 2011, 2012, 2014).
The 2013-14 season was the most successful run the Purdue men's tennis team while under Gajdzik's direction and in program history. For the first time in a dozen years, the Purdue men's tennis team heard its name called as an NCAA Championships qualifier. The 34th-ranked Boilermakers received one of 33 at-large bids into the 64-team field. It was the sixth time in program history that Purdue had qualified for the NCAA Championships and the first since 2002. They added another historic milestone to the season by obtaining the program's high national ranking on April 15. During the course of the season, Gajdzik's team took down nine nationally ranked opponents and their 6-1 upset of 16th-ranked Penn State on April 11 was the highest ranked opponent the Purdue men's tennis program had ever defeated.
Gajdzik's team started the spring season unranked, but two weeks later entered the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's (ITA) national team rankings at No. 68 after posting back-to-back wins over No. 49 Dartmouth and No. 51 Brown. Purdue went on to appear in all but one of the season's next 14 editions of the poll.
The ITA tabbed Diego Acosta and Aaron Dujovne as the nation's 13th-ranked doubles team in its preseason rankings released Sept. 7, 2012. As a result, the duo was selected to play the Main Draw of the ITA All-American Tennis Championships. Not only were Acosta and Dujovne Gajdzik's first Boilermaker tandem to be invited to the event, but they were also the first in program history. The doubles team of Szymon Tatarczyk and Krisztian Krocsko were ranked as high as No. 55 during the spring campaign. Tatarczyk earned his second All-Big Ten second team honor at the conclusion of the season.
Acosta, who was the top-ranked prospect in Purdue history at No. 58, came to Purdue prior to the 2011-12 season. The Cuenca, Ecuador, native, paired with Dujovne and the duo climbed throughout the national rankings. They were listed as high as No. 39 under Gajdzik's guidance and they were his first pair to appear in the season's final ITA rankings at No. 42.
Three of his team's 10 victories in 2011-12 were over ranked teams. Gajdzik's squad climbed to No. 52 in the March 13, 2012, ITA team rankings, marking the highest ranking achieved during his tenure and the program's highest ranking since being listed 50th on March 1, 2005. The Boilermakers appeared on 15 consecutive team rankings spanning from March 8, 2011 - Feb. 22, 2012. For the second time in as many season, Kovacs landed on the All-Big Ten second team.
Gajdzik's first recruiting class came to campus as the 24th-ranked group according to tennisrecruiting.net in the fall of 2010. Tatarczyk highlighted the class, coming in as the program's then-highest-ranked recruit at No. 63.
With five newcomers in the starting lineups during the 2010-11 season, Gajdzik led the Old Gold and Black to 13 wins, its highest single-season win total since 2003. He guided his team past five nationally ranked teams. The unranked Boilermakers upended No. 73 Yale and No. 46 New Mexico. They made their season debut in the team rankings on March 8 and spent three consecutive weeks at No. 67. While there, Purdue upset 44th-ranked Michigan State and went on to beat No. 72 Northwestern and No. 69 Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. For the first time since 2007, the Boilermakers were on the ITA's final ranking of the season as Gajdzik's team checked in at No. 64.
Tatarczyk and Kovacs, the highly touted freshmen of Gajdzik's prized recruiting class, were named to the All-Big Ten second team. It had been seven years since Purdue had a player earn conference honors and it had been eight years since multiple players were honored.
During his first season at the helm in 2009-10, Purdue posted 11 wins, the most the program had seen since 2003. His team's nine wins at home were also the most since 2002. Gajdzik guided his unranked Boilermakers to upsets of No. 61 Harvard and No. 48 Northwestern. Purdue garnered its first national team ranking since the 2008 season when it appeared on the Feb. 23, 2010, edition at No. 69. The Old Gold and Black maintained a presence on the list for four more weeks and climbed as high as No. 60. Eight of Gajdzik's players earned career-high win totals during his rookie campaign.
Gajdzik came to Purdue on Aug. 23, 2009, after spending the 2008-09 season as the head men's tennis coach at Northern Illinois. He led the Huskies to a 9-10 overall record, including a 3-2 Mid-American Conference mark that tied for second in the conference. Northern Illinois' second-place MAC showing was the highest for the school since 1997 and included the program's first victory over Ball State since 1974.
The Huskies managed postseason acclaim as well during Gajdzik's tenure. Pawel Poziomski was named MAC Newcomer of the Year and All-MAC second team. Fellow freshman Jurica Grubisic was a first-team All-MAC selection and junior Javier Bernabe was named to the second team. Gajdzik's 2009 recruiting class was named the No. 1 mid-major class in the country by TennisRecruiting.net.
Before taking over at Northern Illinois in 2008, Gajdzik spent six seasons on the coaching staff at Baylor. The Bears won the 2004 NCAA title and the 2005 national indoor team title before earning a national runner-up finish in 2005. Baylor also advanced to the national semifinal in 2006 and 2007 and the national quarterfinals in 2003 and 2008. The Bears brought six consecutive Big 12 championships and five Big 12 tournament titles back to Waco while Gajdzik was on staff.
Gajdzik directed 2004 NCAA singles champion Benjamin Becker and 2005 NCAA singles champion Benedikt Dorsch. They were two of the four All-Americans to play at Baylor under Gajdzik's direction. In addition to his coaching duties at Baylor, Gajdzik founded the PG Tennis Academy in 2005.
During his playing days at Baylor, Gajdzik won the 1998 Big 12 singles and doubles titles and was named the conference's Newcomer of the Year while leading the team to its first NCAA tournament appearance. In his first season of collegiate tennis, he was ranked as high as 17th in singles and was in the top 20 in the doubles rankings with two different partners. His 8-0 conference mark that season still stands as the best single-season mark in school history.
The following year, Baylor put together a 25-4 record and advanced to the national quarterfinals. In 2000, Gajdzik won another Big 12 doubles crown while leading the Bears to the first men's team conference title in school history and a berth in the Round of 16 at the NCAA Championships.
Prior to coming to the United States, Gajdzik was a member of Poland's national team from 1989-97. He was an ATP ranked professional player in singles and doubles while playing for the Polish Junior National Team. Gajdzik also won a national championship and was ranked in the top five throughout his junior career.
Gajdzik is married to the former Elizabeth Solomon. The couple has a daughter, Natalia, and a son, Lukas.