When sophomore Marc Blekhman arrived at Lehigh last year, his presence on the tennis court caught the attention of the conference, and he was named the program’s first Patriot League Rookie of the Year.
Hailing from Glenbrook South High School in Illinois as a standout two-time all-state honoree, where he reached the state quarterfinal in his senior year, Blekhman has brought his skills to Lehigh. He has picked up where he left off last season, going undefeated in singles matches for over a month, as Lehigh sits with a 7-6 record.
Over the past few weeks, Blekhman has contributed in singles play to Lehigh wins over Loyola (Md.) and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. His singles win against James Madison was the only victory for the Mountain Hawks in their only team loss in March.
Head coach Craig Schwartz said Blekhman’s motivation to practice and improve separates him from most players.
“You got to have a purpose every day you step on the court to want to get better,” Schwartz said. “Marc (Blekhman) has that determination.”
Schwartz said whether it is seeking help from coaches or listening to advice, Blekhman absorbs all the feedback he can.
The sophomore’s potential for success does not end on the tennis court.
Blekhman has demonstrated academic discipline as a business major, earning a spot on the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll. In high school, Blekhman was an Illinois Student Assistance Commission State Scholar, which, according to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, is an honor granted to students exhibiting strong academic promise.
Senior Jeremy Learner is Blekhman’s doubles partner, who won seven matches with Blekhman in 2022. Learner said Blekhman’s drive helps propel the rest of the team.
“Marc (Blekhman) isn’t afraid to speak his mind and call his teammates out,” Learner said. “He has this unbelievable work ethic, and with the effort he puts in, there is no doubt that he deserves the success he has had so far.”
Blekhman earned Second Team All-Patriot League honors and led Lehigh in doubles wins, with the help of Learner, in his first collegiate season.
Blekhman won eight of his 14 singles matches last season, with three of his losses coming in third sets.
Blekhman did not win a single match in a third set last season — he said his 2023 goal is to finish matches better.
“I started to take yoga (classes) over the winter, and I feel it has made such a difference in my game,” Blekhman said. “It taught me how to have discipline, and even though I am not the best at yoga, doing it for 20 minutes daily has changed how I approach these third sets.”
So far this season, Blekhman has won three of his first five matches that have gone to a third set. The change in approach has allowed him to win each of his last 11 singles matches.
Schwartz said he commends Blekhman’s ability to “stay in the moment” and communicate with coaches to learn how to close matches.
“With his improvement, it has helped him get the confidence he needs to win those third sets,” Schwartz said.
Lehigh will face six more conference opponents, starting with Colgate on March 26. Last year, the team made it to the semifinals.
Blekhman said his main focus for the rest of the season is to continue getting better.
“We just have to get better ourselves and as a team and not worry about anybody else,” Blekhman said.
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