March 8, 2011

Athlete Spotlight: Jon Jaklitsch

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Jonathan Jaklitsch has dedicated his career at Cornell to developing the men’s tennis team into a dominating force. Under Jaklitsch’s leadership, the program has continually improved in the Eastern College Athletic Conference and managed its first-ever tournament title earlier this season. However, what is most impressive about this talented senior member of the team is the incredible balance he maintains between his academic and varsity life. As an economics major in the College of Arts and Sciences, he strives to find his place in the financial world as well as the tennis universe. Jaklitsch graduated as the salutatorian from Islip High School in his hometown of Islip, N.Y. Surprisingly, Cornell was not his first choice during his college hunting days. “I was looking at schools down south — Duke mainly,” Jaklitsch said.Jaklitsch made the final decision to come to Cornell when he realized the University would provide him with both strong academics and a chance to rebuild the men’s tennis team. With the support of his father, who also played tennis for Cornell, Jaklitsch entered in the fall of 2007 ranked No. 3 in the East and 23rd nationally. The hard-hitting righty started his first season in a Red uniform with a six-game winning streak and finished with a 12-9 overall record. After four years of hard work Jaklitsch’s dream of rebuilding the Red’s tennis program has come true with the Red entering the ECAC tournament as the No. 1 seed. The team earned the ECAC title for the first time in program history after defeating Ivy rivals Columbia and Harvard en route to a final matchup with Binghamton. “We have only beaten Harvard eight times in the past 90 years,” Jaklitsch said. “Evan Bernstein then took the third set against Binghamton to take the title.” The Cornell men’s tennis team is now currently ranked No. 40 in the nation, ahead of Princeton, Brown and Columbia. Jaklitsch was first introduced to tennis by his father, an avid player in his own right, at a very early age.“We had a tennis court in our backyard. I remember playing with my dad when I was two years old,” he said. Jaklitsch quickly learned to love the game until the age of 12 when contemporary players started to hit their growth sprout. “I was a late bloomer,” Jaklitsch admitted. “I did not grow until I was 16 or 17, and that’s when I started to play really well.” What sticks out most to Jaklistch about those early playing days is the effort that went into each match and the inevitable anguish that resulted from the many strenuous hours spent on the court.“I remember playing a match in 98 degree weather against the No. 1 player in the nation in the 18s National Clay Court tournament,” he said. “It was a five hour match and I started to cramp.”Jaklitsch attributes his successes at Cornell to his coach, fellow teammates and even to a few personal rituals he performs before matches. “I never step on the lines and wear the same outfit for every match,” Jaklitsch admitted. In addition to tennis, Jaklitsch is an avid fan of hockey, baseball and basketball. Like a true New Yorker, his favorite teams are the Rangers, Yankees and Knicks.“At first it was really hard liking the Knicks, but after Stoudemire joined, I became a big fan,” Jaklitsch said with a grin.  Jaklitsch’s favorite tennis player is world No. 1, Rafael Nadal, but his playing style most resembles young English star Andy Murray. “Murray is deceptively fast and really consistent,” Jaklitsch said. “I definitely do not complain as much though.” After graduation Jaklitsch will work in finance for Google. He aspires to attend graduate school at Stanford and start his own business, but still hopes to keep living the dream and someday run his own tennis academy.

Original Author: Chris Kim