Teammates call men’s tennis senior Nikita Fomin “Laser” because of the pinpoint accuracy with which he can drill winners from all over the court.
Well, the Laser struck again.
In the Colonials’ quest for the Atlantic 10 Championship – their third in four years – they needed one of those precise shots. After a 30-second long rally, he gave his team just that: a forehand winner with just enough top spin to sail past his opponent.
His match point sealed the tournament victory over VCU and earned the Colonials an automatic bid to the NCAA Regional Tournament.
“Everyone rushed over, and after that it was kind of a couple minutes of blanking out. It was just pure happiness,” Fomin said. “I’ve never experienced anything like that.”
But not long before he was mobbed by jubilant teammates, Fomin was locked in a do-or-die battle. He had lost the first set 4-6, forcing him outside his comfort zone.
Fomin said his aggressive style means he usually wins or loses a game “pretty fast,” depending on which way unforced errors and service breaks are going. But in his Sunday match, Fomin’s first match-deciding point at No. 2, he said it felt like anything could happen.
“It was definitely some new pressure – I’d never experienced quite like that,” Fomin said.
When the Moscow native found himself down again early in the second set, head coach Greg Munoz knew to remind his star to do what he does best: plan and control the game.
“When he was down 4-1, I basically told him that you take every match and you win it or lose it on your terms, so I’m going to walk away now and let you decide your fate,” Munoz said. “And he did it because I trust him more than anyone else on this team to not just win but to trust that he knows what it’s going to take for him to win.”
The advice to play decisively resonated with Fomin, who is almost superstitious with his game rituals. Between points, Fomin never steps on the court lines, which he said keeps his mind focused.
“I try to avoid them – not during the point of course,” he said, laughing.
The Colonials No. 2 singles player has had a remarkable career at GW since transferring from Stony Brook University after his sophomore year. He said he wanted to come to the University to grow as a player and test himself in more competitive tournaments, like the A-10 Championship.
Fomin was named the team’s MVP during his very first season, finishing his junior year as the No. 100 singles player in the final International Tennis Association rankings and the No. 12 player in the ITA Atlantic region.
After leading his team to victory in the A-10, Fomin will have the chance to play at an even higher level: the NCAA Tournament. The team will find out where they will play on April 29 during the selection show at 5:30 p.m.
The chance to play in the NCAA Tournament drew Fomin to GW in the first place, so it was fitting that Fomin came storming back to get the team the automatic bid. Fomin rallied for a 7-6(4) tie-breaker win in the final match. He turned it on in the third set and won decisively 6-2.
“It could not have been more storybook for Nikita to be the guy that clinched it,” Munoz said.