Vyacheslav “Slava” Konikov completed his 13th season with the Sacramento State tennis program, and his 11th as the men’s head coach in 2016. Prior to his appointment to head coach on Sept. 1, 2005, Konikov spent the 2004 and 2005 seasons as an assistant with Sacramento State women’s team.
In 11 years as the men’s head coach, Konikov has led the Hornets to a 156-129 overall record, a 80-15 mark in the Big Sky Conference, six NCAA Tournament appearances (2007, 2009-13), six conference tournament crowns (2007, 2009-13) and six Big Sky regular season championships (2007-11, 2013).
In addition, Sacramento State has received a combined 36 all-conference selections during his head coaching tenure, including 22 first team selections and six MVPs. That includes Kiryl Harbatsiuk being named league MVP three straight years (2009-11), and becoming the first player in school history to win the ITA Northwest Regional singles title in 2010. For his efforts, Konikov has been named Big Sky Coach of the Year three times (2009-11).
One of his more impressive stretches as a head coach came over the last six seasons where he guided the Hornets to three Big Sky Tournament crowns and a combined 45-13 league mark despite many young faces on the roster and a rash of injuries. In fact, in 2013, with a roster that consisted of just one senior, Konikov used a singles lineup that included five underclassmen in every match. Despite the heavy mix of freshmen and sophomores in the lineup, the team still found a way to go 17-13 overall, 9-1 in the Big Sky, and win both the league’s regular season and tournament championships, not to mention another NCAA Tournament appearance. Five of his players received some form of all-conference recognition, including sophomore Marek Marksoo who was named the league MVP.
The injury bug hit hard during the 2014 and 2015 seasons as Sacramento State saw six of its nine eligible players suffer injuries in 2014, and three more players got hurt in 2015. Still, the Hornets managed to combine for a 13-8 Big Sky record with an injury-depleted roster.
Last season, in 2016, Sacramento State finished 8-3 in the conference despite fielding a singles lineup that included just one senior, two sophomores and three freshmen.
In 2012, Konikov used four freshmen in the singles lineup every match, and the team won eight of its last 11 matches, posted a 7-1 league mark, won the Big Sky Tournament crown and qualified for the NCAA Tournament. In 2011, the roster featured eight newcomers and Sacramento State finished a perfect 8-0 in conference. The team had won 24 straight conference matches (dating back to 2010) before falling at Montana, 4-3, early in the season. Still, the Hornets won the 2010 Big Sky regular season and tournament titles, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
In 2010, Konikov led the team to a 17-12 overall record and a 7-1 mark in the conference. The team swept both opponents (Montana, Northern Arizona) it faced in the Big Sky Tournament before falling in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to ninth-ranked UCLA. During the season, the team put together a 10-match winning streak. In 2009, despite a singles lineup that included four underclassmen and no seniors, Sacramento State posted a 19-7 overall record and a perfect 8-0 mark in Big Sky play. The team won 18 of its final 20 matches of the season prior to falling in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to ninth-ranked Stanford.
In 2008, Konikov guided Sacramento State to a 15-8 overall record and an 8-0 mark in the conference. Four of his players earned all-conference honors, including Anton Stryhas being named the league’s MVP. In 2007, he led the Hornets to the program’s first Big Sky Tournament championship since the 2003 season. In addition, the squad’s 20-6 record was the best since the 2001 squad went 20-3.
In his first season as head coach in 2006, Konikov led the Hornets to a 12-11 overall record and a share of the Big Sky regular-season championship with a 5-1 league mark. In addition, the team’s 2006-07 recruiting class was ranked first in the nation among all mid-major institutions and the 16th-best class among all Div. I schools by the Tennis Recruiting Network.
Konikov has an extensive coaching resumé, having spent time as head coach of the Belarus Davis Cup team from 1995-02, and leading the Belarus Junior National Women’s Team (14-year olds) to four-consecutive world championships from 1999-02. In addition, Konikov coached the Polish Junior Men’s and Women’s National Teams from 1993-95. From 1998-02, he coached Victoria Azaremko, who was the top-ranked juniors player in the world.
During his two years with the Sacramento State women’s squad, Konikov helped coach the team to a combined record of 46-9, including a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances. In 2005, the Hornets posted a 23-5 record, including six wins over ranked opposition.
A 29-year coaching veteran, the Minsk, Belarus, native also coached three players that were ranked among the top 200 professionals in the world in 2005, comprised of Max Mirnyi, Vladimir Voltchkov and Tatiana Poutchek. Mirnyi was also ranked No. 1 in the world in doubles play with teammate Jonas Bjorkman. In 2000, Voltchkov became the first qualifier to reach the Wimbledon semifinals since John McEnroe accomplished the feat in 1997.
Konikov also spent nine years as an instructor at the Minsk Tennis Club in Belarus (1983-92) where he coached Mirnyi, Voltchkov and Poutchek. During his playing days, Konikov was ranked among the top 10 singles players in the Soviet Union when he was 18 years old. He graduated from Moscow Sports University where he received what is the equivalent to the United States’ All-American honors as a tennis player.