Mikayel Khachatryan: international tennis star

One of Armenia's top tennis players joins the Eagles

Kachatryan+competing+in+the+EWU+Fall+Classic.+He+won+his+first+doubles+match+as+an+Eagle+alongside+senior+Jeremy+Field.

Bailey Monteith

Kachatryan competing in the EWU Fall Classic. He won his first doubles match as an Eagle alongside senior Jeremy Field.

By Taylor Newquist, Sports Editor

Mikayel Khachatryan was six years old, walking by a park in his hometown of Yerevan, Armenia with his brother and father the first time he picked up a tennis racket.

They had spotted a tennis coach and asked if they could play. The coach gave them each 10 balls to hit. His brother only hit two in the court, while Mikayel hit eight, and he has been playing ever since.

Competing in U-14 and U-16 leagues, he was among the top-100 players in Europe. At age 14, he moved to Barcelona, Spain where he spent seven years training at the Bruguera Tennis Academy, and now he finds himself in Cheney, a member of the Eagles men’s tennis team.

“I had many offers from other universities,” Khachatryan said. “I chose Eastern because of coach [Steve] Clark. The way he is passionate about tennis, the way he teaches us how to play tennis and because he teaches us how to become our best version [of ourselves], that’s why I chose Eastern.”

Khachatryan said that while other schools might have better academics or facilities, those things don’t matter to him. What matters is the coach. In his time in Barcelona, Khachatryan was taught by Lluís Bruguera, whose son Sergi is a two-time French open champion, and also a coach at the academy.

“Mikayel has a great, appreciative smile and is very coachable,” Clark said. “He is the type of guy that asks your opinion so he can be better.”

As an Armenian, Khachatryan takes great pride in representing his people and his country. He said that there is a bond with Armenians all over the world, and that they try to help each other whenever they can.

Because of Armenia’s turbulent history in the 1900s, and in large part due to the Armenian Genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire from 1915-1917, there was a diaspora from their country that has resulted in Armenian communities building all across the world.

“Wherever you go there is a small group of Armenians where we can be together,” Khachatryan said. “If one Armenian sees another on the street, no matter what they would go up to each other and talk, because we are not a lot. When we see one Armenian we get excited.”

Khachatryan also plays for his country’s national team, where he is in the top three and also recently won tennis in the Pan-Armenian Games—a multisport competition between athletes from the Armenian diaspora and from Armenia. He also took first place in the Davis Cup senior division while playing for the national team.

“To play national is a big honor,” Khachatyran said. “It’s not just playing for fun, not everyone has this luck and honor to play for your country. Since I have it, I thank God and my hard work, and everytime when I enter the court I do my best.”

Outside of playing tennis for the national team, Kachatryan’s favorite part of Armenia is the food and the people. He said that many of the countries of the former Soviet Union took a liking to Armenian cuisine and that a lot of people travel there to eat the food, along with skiing.

One dish in particular that is Kachatryan’s favorite is called Dolma—a meat and rice dish marinated and wrapped in a grape leaf. He said this one in particular is an ancient recipe, and that everyone needs to go to Armenia to experience the beautiful countryside and the food.

“You can go to a restaurant and order anything you want,” Kachatryan said. “Then you will see the taste of how our grandmothers and our mothers prepare [food]. It is something that I cannot describe with words.”

In Cheney, Kachatryan has found a home in The Nest apartments, and while he doesn’t want to compare EWU to Pacific University where he transferred from, he said that the teachers here have been a huge help.

“They are always next to you,” Kachatryan said. “The teachers, the coaches, the assistant coaches, your teammates and everyone. It’s a really great and honorable place.”

Kachatryan played his first match as an Eagle last weekend at the EWU Fall Classic. He and Jeremy Field won their first doubles match, but ended up going down in the finals.

He compared playing on the college team to the national team because of the added pressure of having more people relying on you while you’re on the court.

[In College] you are not only playing for yourself. You are playing for your family, you are playing for Eastern Washington, you are playing for your country, you are playing for your coach and you are playing for yourself.”

— Makayel Khachatryan

 In Europe if you lose, you are by yourself and it is okay, but here if you continue to lose you are in trouble.”

Next weekend he and Field will be the only players on the tennis team traveling to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to compete in the ITA All American PQ-Main. The team will be back playing in Spokane in the Gonzaga Invite on Oct. 26-28.•