Sacramento State men’s tennis player Mikus Losbergs first picked up a racket for some fun with friends in Marupe, Latvia and soon found himself falling in love with the sport.
“When I was seven, at the beginning I started playing weekend leagues for fun with a few of my friends and I just started to enjoy it more and more,” Losbergs said.
Losbergs’ devotion to tennis eventually placed him on the Latvian national team — a country with a total population of 1.9 million — allowing him to travel around Europe.
“I always played for national team under 12, 14, 16 and 18,” Losbergs said. “That really helps me right now because I have a lot of experience maybe other guys on the team don’t have.”
After playing in Latvia until 2014, Losbergs — who ranked in the top 300 in the International Tennis Federation and earned spots on the national team several times — decided it was time to find stiffer competition and higher education.
The 20-year-old sophomore also wanted to join current Sac State junior and friend Kasparas Zemaitelis, who is a native of Latvia’s neighbor, Lithuania.
“I always wanted to come to America to combine high level of sport and high level of academics,” Losbergs said.
To get more information about schools in the United States, Losbergs got into contact with Zemaitelis.
After Losbergs inquired about colleges in the United States, Zemaitelis said he recommended Sac State.
Once Losbergs arrived in the United States, he was worried about being unwelcomed but was quickly reassured after meeting his new teammates and coaches at Sac State.
“We had five freshmen last year so we kind of came here together,” Losbergs said. “We are an international team so I wasn’t the only one who didn’t speak English.”
So far, Losbergs hasn’t wasted any time in his college career either, taking the No. 1 seed in both singles and doubles during his freshman year and earning second team all-Big Sky Conference honors.
“Last year as a freshman I ended up 14-10 in singles, me and Kasparas were ranked top-30 in NCAA for doubles and that was a great experience,” Losbergs said. “I won best player (of the week) in conference and hopefully this year I will achieve this goal again.”
In addition to being taught about tennis in greater depth, Losbergs said that he has learned lessons through America’s ethnic diversity.
“Obviously in Latvia it is very different because it is only white people and nothing else, but now there are all different races so it’s really interesting and I’ve learned a lot,” Losbergs said. “On our team we have (five) international players so you learn a lot from them too.”
Dom Miller, a native of New Zealand, said that learning about cultural similarities and differences has strengthened his relationship with Losbergs.
“He said they always use sour cream on everything, like on pasta, so he’s just always eating sour cream,” Miller said. “First thing we bonded over was playing FIFA; he was really loud whenever he lost (and) there was lots of swearing in Russian.”
The only down side to Losbergs’ move to the United States is that he is not able to bring his family with him. However, Losbergs said he has slowly adapted because of his travels and is staying in contact with his friends and family in Latvia.
“I came here by myself (and) I have a big family back home with a younger sister and brother,” Losbergs said. “Unfortunately, they can’t come here because they are very young, but I go back during the summer and winter breaks. I played a lot of tournaments so I was used to being away from them, but I was never gone for four months straight.”
Losbergs hopes to continue the relationships he has made in the United States as the Hornets travel to Dallas, Texas, to play Southern Methodist University on Friday.