April 7, 2005
By Neil Fausset, Purdue Sports Information
Filip Koziell first remembers hitting a tennis ball at the age of 7 with his father, sister and brother. Since then, the senior has come a long way from all different parts of the world to emerge as one of the top tennis players in Purdue's lineup this season.
Koziell moved to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, from Poland when he was just 1 year old. While growing up, his father, Marek Koziell, recalls Filip participating in two different sports while growing up.
"Filip and I used to always like to go skiing," Marek says. "He skied competitively until he was around 8 years old and seemed to really enjoy it. It just turned out that we always had a long drive in the winter months to make it to the nearest slope, so he decided he would stick with tennis."
Koziell decided that his sport would be tennis, and sticking with it has paid off. Koziell was the gold medalist at the 1999 Western Canada Summer Games and finished his junior career ranked 12th in the Canadian national rankings. He placed third at the Canadian nationals in the under-14 division, and later became the top under-18 singles and doubles player in Alberta in 2000 and 2001.
One problem Koziell encountered as a tennis player in Canada was that he either had to go to college to continue playing or see his career come to an end; in Canada there is no competitive tennis beyond the age of 18.
Koziell decided that he wanted to continue playing, so he enrolled at the University of Pan-American in Texas. While there he had much success. He was named to the 2003 Southland Conference All-Academic Team, won 18 singles matches, went 15-13 in doubles action, and was named second team all-conference as a freshman for the Broncos.
While at UT-PA though, Koziell wasn't totally satisfied and thought he could compete at an even higher level. Following his sophomore season, he transferred to Purdue.
"I wanted to come to a bigger school," Koziell says. "Purdue was a bigger campus and it had a great management school, plus I wanted to be able to enjoy other sports at a higher level. The guys here are great, and I felt that Purdue was a great fit for me."
Koziell's father said it was a tough transition for the family because of his move from Canada to Texas and then back up to Indiana.
"It was tough on all of us," Marek says. "We really missed him and obviously wanted him close to home, but we weren't going to stop him from chasing his dreams. We always have and always will be supportive of whatever Filip wants to do."
That support is one reason Koziell attributes much of his success to the close relationship with his family, especially his father.
"My dad has been the biggest influence on my tennis career," Koziell says. "He's the one who taught me how to play tennis and always made time when I was younger to play with me to improve my game. Even now when I go home during the summer we still play together. He's just always been so positive and willing to help me with my game."
Koziell has shown much improvement since arriving in West Lafayette. When he first got arrived, his game struggled as he adjusted to the higher level of play. Since then, Koziell has worked himself up to the top of the singles lineup and has an 8-4 record in doubles play in the spring season paired up with fellow senior Sounak Chatterjee.
Koziell says the reason he and Chatterjee have succeeded this season is because they have both learned how to complement each other.
"We played together last year as well, and I think the chemistry between us is real good because we're great friends," Koziell says. "Last year we were good too, but it seemed that at times during our matches that one of us would be mentally out of the match. This year we have learned how to combat the mental part of the game. When Sounak is down, I pick my game up for him and he does the same for me when I am mentally out of it."
Purdue head coach Tim Madden attributes Koziell's success to the extra work he puts in.
"Filip really puts a lot of time in on the practice court," Madden says. "He loves repetition and gets as much extra hitting time in as he can."
Madden also notes that Koziell has made tremendous progress since arriving at Purdue.
"He has made big strides in adding weapons to his game," Madden says. "I think the most important improvement that he has made from last year is that he now plays the game with an offensive mindset. One of his biggest strengths is his serve, which allows him to strike first and put pressure on his opponent."
Koziell hopes that his work ethic will be one of the many things that future players will remember him for when he leaves.
As for the future, Koziell is still uncertain. He will graduate in December 2005 with a degree from the Krannert School of Management. Where his life takes him after that is up in the air.
"I would love to continue playing tennis," Koziell says. "I'd like to go to graduate school eventually, but I'd also like to take some time off and travel and play tennis, not even to make money, but just to get by and see the world. I think my degree from Purdue will be worth a lot when I'm ready to go into the workforce, but for now I just want to enjoy life."
As for now, Koziell wants to finish his career at Purdue on a positive note, while not forgetting what he loves most about his time spent as a Boilermaker.
"I want to leave here being satisfied and proud with what I've done and how everything went," Koziell says. "I just really want to enjoy the rest of the season. When you play so much and so competitively, you kind of forget why you started and why you come to college and why you play three hours a day. As you get older you realize that the reason you do it is for the love of the game."