A Q&A With MSU Tennis Player Malte Stropp

Mississippi State men's tennis player Malte Stropp talks one-on-one with Gene's Page about being selected the SEC Freshman of the year as well as some things he still needs to do to improve his overall game.

The Dusseldorf, Germany, native Malte Stropp has been one of top rookies in nation in 2011. A four-time SEC Freshman of the Week, he is 24-5 in singles, 16-2 in dual matches, and was a stellar 9-1 in SEC play this season, playing mainly at the No. 4 position. He has been ranked as high as 89th in the country in singles and 33rd in doubles with Cant. The rookie has MSU's best winning percentage in dual matches (.889) and has won his last 11 contests in a row. Stropp also clinched a team-best four matches for State this season, including MSU's big home wins over #4 Tennessee and rival Ole Miss. Source: MSU Media Relations

What are your feelings about being selected the top freshman in the top conference in the nation, the Southeastern Conference?
"I'm very excited about being selected the best freshman of the year from the best tennis conference in the country. That is a great honor for me. When I first came here I didn't expect that. I am so excited about it, my whole team is happy for me and my family is happy. It has been a great season for us."

You mentioned that you really didn't expect an honor like that. What kind of expectations did you have coming into this season?
"We don't have college tennis in Germany, so I didn't know what would happen or how it would go. We just have club matches in Germany. Here in the US, it is so exciting because it is a team (sport) and everybody is playing for the team. That is different from how it is in Germany where you only play for yourself. That was a big different for me, but I really like it because you get support from the other players. It's so much more fun."

Did having the support, not just your teammates and coaches but the fans as well, help improve your game?
"Yes, for sure. Now you are fighting for the team and the fans. If you lose a set the fans are trying to help push you to go on. That really helps because you don't get down on yourself. You really want to keep on fighting and try to win for the team and the fans."

When you first got here what kind of adjustments did you have to make and how much do you think you have improved as the season has progressed?
"When I first came here, (head coach) Per (Nilsson) and (assistant coach) Matt (Hill) and I worked a lot on my serve and forehand because back in Germany I was kind of a grinder, a base-liner who just put balls in play and not miss. On hard courts you have to hold your serve to be a good player. So a big part of that was to improve my serve. At the beginning of the season I had some problems with my service game and often got (my serve) broken after I broke the guy. That was a big issue. As the season went on, my serve got better and better and it was easier for me to hold it. I am a good return player so that wasn't a problem for me."

You are still a freshman, so you can improve even more. What things do you need to improve?
"I can get physically more stronger. You can never be too fit. The pros are so fit it's almost unreal. That's a big issue for me. But I also want to keep improving my serve and my forehand so I can dictate the game and be in charge of the match. I want to be able to open the court with my forehand and then finish at the net sometimes. If I can do that, then I can be a really good player."

MSU head tennis coach Per Nilsson talks about Malte Stropp

Malte Stropp 6-0 Fr. HS Dusseldorf, Germany - "Malte, who is a freshman, was 24-5 and only lost 1 match in the SEC. He played on our one doubles team and they are ranked 33 in the country. He has been a machine for us. He was freshman of the year in the conference. He is one of the top recruits in the entire country. There are maybe three or four guys in the country who can compare to what he has done this year."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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