Matty Najfeld started his tennis career in Luxembourg, where he achieved a No. 2 ranking in the Under-16 European Tennis Association. After attending law school in Brussels for a short time, he came to the U.S. to play tennis. He attended St. John’s University during his first two years in the states, where he put together a 17-6 singles record during his freshman season, and ended his sophomore campaign on a five game winning streak. After graduating from St. John’s, Najfeld came to Fordham to take on graduate work while taking advantage of his final two years of eligibility. He is currently 2-1 on the season and is looking to build on his 7-2 singles record during his junior season.
The Fordham Ram: Has it hit you at any point this season that this will be your last year playing tennis for Fordham?
Matty Najfeld: Yes, it hit me directly after the Concordia match. I started the season well by beating the top ranked player in Division II and thought about my passion for tennis and how much I love it, but when I was up 5-3 against Concordia and ended up losing, I realized that I’m done. It’s my last year and I won’t have a chance to get revenge for my losses.
TFR: You experienced a lot of success in Luxembourg before coming to the United States for college. What made you decide to leave Europe and to attend St. John’s?
MN: After I graduated high school in Luxembourg, I tried to attend law school in Brussels, but as a regular student I was missing the practices, challenges, matches and traveling that I experienced while playing for the national team. I felt that there was something missing in my life. It’s hard to explain, but every athlete knows what I’m talking about. So I had a friend from Luxembourg that played college tennis before and started to ask him about it. So I did my TOEFL and SATs and built up my profile based on my results and just gave it a shot to see what colleges would be interested in me.
TFR: You played with teammate Mischa Koran while at St. John’s. Did his decision to transfer to Fordham affect yours?
MN: Yes. It’s a funny story. We were teammates fighting for one scholarship at St. John’s before he transferred to Fordham. When I graduated from St. John’s and still had two years of eligibility left, it was him who called me and asked me to come to Fordham and do an MBA while playing tennis. At the time I knew they had started to build a good team because I knew the coach, so I decided that I wanted to be a part of it.
TFR: You finished last season 6-1 at the second singles spot and scored the only singles point against Richmond in the A-10 tournament. How did you plan to improve on what was individually a pretty successful season?
MN: I didn’t expect to be playing that high in the line-up, but was. I came from a tennis program that was among the top 50 in the country, my motivation was pretty high. Moreover, I had to prove myself in order to get a better scholarship. I’m actually not a fan of such statistics because a lot of things can influence each match, such as the wind, the opponent, the ref, your performance on that particular day, but yes, it was a pretty successful season. Playing in the conference tournament is always a special feeling because you know that if you lose, you are out of the tournament. In order to help the team win and contribute something to the victory, I always try to keep the fighter mindset because in the end the match is not over until you have played the last point. In order to improve my stats, I set the goal for myself to be better than last season.
TFR: As of right now, what are your expectations on the season for you individually as well as for your team?
MN: My personal expectations are to beat my numbers from last year and to win all of my matches. Until now I am 2-1 (I don’t consider Fairfield as an official match because it was an exhibition and I retired in the third set) but in general I try to have fun on the court. I know that we have a very good team on paper with a line-up that could be nationally ranked, but we are missing the motivation and seriousness to take our play as a whole to the next level. It’s hard to mix an individual sport with being a team player, but if we are able to change that throughout the season we could do very well in conference.
TFR: What are your plans for after graduation?
MN: I’m trying to get an internship over the summer and in the fall I will definitely have my last semester in college. After I graduate, I hope to get a full time job offer so that I can stay here and experience the financial center of the world.