Junior Tadas Babelis, from Vilnius, Lithuania, is going into his third season with the No. 23 NC State men’s tennis team this year as the team’s No. 2 singles player.
Babelis took a giant leap, travelling over 4,600 miles to pursue an education and tennis career. Despite having offers from other universities, Babelis said he knew NC State was the right choice.
“Kyle [Spencer] before had coached some of my friends,” Babelis said. “I got some really good recommendations from them, and they were like, ‘That is the right place for you, I think you should go here. This is the right coach, the guys there are mature and have a great team.’”
Babelis is a high-energy guy who always has a smile on his face, which is something NC State men’s tennis head coach Kyle Spencer appreciates about him.
“He’s a relationship person, so it really matters to him about the person,” Spencer said. “The qualities that make him a good person also make him a good tennis player, so he's always fun to be around.”
Babelis was 14-9 as a sophomore in singles play and 14-11 in doubles. In his freshman year, he was named third team All-ACC. With this level of success comes high expectations for one of the veterans on the team.
“At the end of the season, I would like to play in the NCAA singles and doubles,” Babelis said. “For team goals, I think the most important [thing] is to trust each other, have a good team atmosphere and support each other after wins and losses; just do the best we can do.”
Spencer has been able to see firsthand how Babelis has grown as a player and a person during his time at NC State, but there was one thing Spencer noticed during the offseason.
“I think he has gotten better at the day-to-day attention to detail,” Spencer said. “I think that comes with maturity and focus level. Whether it be in the classroom or on the tennis court, he just continues to have that focus.”
Unlike most other college tennis players, Babelis has represented his country since 2015 on the Lithuanian Davis Cup team. The Davis Cup is considered the world cup of tennis. Playing with professionals during the Davis Cup gives Babelis a chance to learn from them and bring that experience back to NC State for his collegiate season.
“That was probably one of the best experiences I ever had, representing my country,” Babelis said. “Playing with the strongest guys in the Lithuanian team means a lot to me.”
With a preseason ranking of No. 23 comes high expectations for Babelis and his teammates. If the Wolfpack can live up to these expectations, it will go down as one of the best teams in NC State men’s tennis history, with Babelis being a major contributor to this title.