UK’s French connection: Rossi, Musialek form unique doubles duo for tennis team

UK’s Alex Musialek plays a singles match against Wake Forest at Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010. Photo by Scott Hannigan

By Ethan Levine

From Paris, Ky., to Paris, France, the game of tennis translates into any language. Nowhere is this more relevant than on UK’s men’s tennis team.

The French connection begins at the top with fifth-year associate head coach Cedric Kauffmann. Kauffmann came to the U.S. at age 14 to play tennis at the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida, a prestigious training ground that has trained the likes of Maria Sharapova, Andre Agassi, and Venus and Serena Williams. After four years at the academy, Kauffmann played tennis for UK from 1994-98.

“I love the city of Lexington,” Kauffmann said. “I love the people I work for; it is a good place to have a good team.”

Now, UK has two more Frenchmen in sophomore Alex Musialek and freshman Anthony Rossi. Both players credit much of their decision to come to UK to Kauffmann.

“We look at players from everywhere — first in America and then outside,” Kauffmann said. “I looked where I have connections, and of course, one of those places is France. I know big coaches in France, the players e-mailed me back and now they are here.”

When asked what his favorite part about coaching Musialek and Rossi was, Kauffmann said he knows French and American players are coached differently.

“I have spent as much time in France as I have in America, so I recognize what the players need and what they like and dislike,” Kauffmann said.

Musialek, who hails from Dax, France, said when he first got to UK, he couldn’t speak any English.

“I came here and couldn’t speak English,” Musialek said. “But Cedric really helped me learn English and build my confidence. I didn’t know anything about UK before I got here, but Cedric really helped me.”

Musialek said there are many differences between the French and American cultures that took some getting used to.

“In general, people here are friendlier,” Musialek said. “You can walk down the street and people will say hello to you, even if you don’t know them. That doesn’t happen in France. I was also surprised at the fact that people here really care about their sports. The French like their sports, but people here are really passionate.”

Rossi, a freshman from Martigues, is still adjusting to the culture and improving his English, and said it helps to have Kauffmann, as well as Musialek, around to help him settle.

“Speaking English is tough,” Rossi said. “I am living in a new system for me.”

When asked if they missed anything from home, including friends and family, both quickly said the food at home was much better.

One thing that helps comfort Musialek and Rossi is when they play doubles together. As doubles partners, the two have experienced a lot of success together.

“We can speak French on the court and no one can understand us,” Rossi said. “I played doubles once with Eric Quigley, but I like playing with Alex better. We are always together.”

Musialek and Rossi agreed they have more opportunities in the U.S. and at UK than they did in France.

“It helps to have someone from your native country to speak to if you get homesick. But I never get homesick here,” Musialek said. “I like fighting for UK.”

“For sure when I came here, it was because of the French people here at UK,” Rossi said. “When I talk to my friends in France, I try and get them to come here. Life is much better here.”