July 9, 2014
Florida State’s Cristian Gonzalez Mendez is a men’s tennis player from Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Throughout the summer as he transitions from a junior to a senior, Cristian will provide fans with an in depth look into the world of tennis both at Florida State and internationally in Spain.
Hola from Spain!
I’ve been home for two weeks now and last week I played my first tournament of the summer, the Open La Calleja in Ferrol. It is great to play tennis in my home country where it all started for me and with people I have known for many years watching and supporting me. At this tournament, I was reunited with old friends from my tennis academy who also play collegiate tennis in the U.S. While it would have been fun to play against them that is not how the draw transpired.
I played four matches, including two rounds of qualifiers. In past years, I never had to qualify in Spanish tournaments, I always made the main draw; but because I’ve been in the United States for three years now, I haven’t been able to play enough tournaments in Spain, which has slowly dropped my Spanish ranking. I expect I have to qualify for most tournaments I will play this summer, but I’m okay with this because I see it as an opportunity for practice and to get more wins under my belt. Last week, I ended up winning both of my qualifying matches relatively easy.
Moving into the main draw as a qualifier can be stressful sometimes. In tennis, the main draw is drafted before the tournament even starts, with open spots for the qualifiers; this means that once I qualify, they could put me in any of those spots and I won’t know who ill play until the day before. This is a problem for me personally because I like having time to strategize the best way to beat my opponent.
In the first round of the main draw, I faced eighteen-year-old Oscar Barreiro (ESP) who just won a tournament a week earlier. This was my first challenging match since NCAA Championships in May. I focused on my strategy for overpowering my rival, took an early lead, and did not let go throughout the entire match.
In quarterfinals, my opponent had a very distinctive game style. He played with a lot of spin on his stokes and wasn’t afraid of lobbing the ball. This match consisted mostly of long rallies, where I was constantly moving my opponent side to side. For many of the points, I was forced to play where I am most uncomfortable, at the net. I did very well though and I am feeling more confident with my net game (something I look forward to taking back to FSU).
Before talking about my semifinals match, I want to describe the tennis club that hosted the tournament. Casino Ferrolano tennis club is located in Ferrol, a small town in the most northwestern part of Spain. Ferrol is a coastal city where the climate conditions are extreme: fast winds and constant rain. Even more so, the club is situated at the top of a mountain and faces the ocean! Ocean breeze isn’t so wonderful when playing tennis. Wind is one of tennis’ biggest challenges, as it requires you to constantly adjust your footwork and racket swing to be able to hit the ball at the speed and direction you want it to go.
During the semifinals, the wind was blowing hard, up to 25 miles per hour and in different directions. I played against world-ranked 812 Jordi Muñoz and we both made mistakes. What made the difference was that my opponent outsmarted me. While I was playing a more direct game trying to overpower him, Muñoz was mixing a variety of shots, from slices to high and spinning balls. The varied shots forced me to adjust my timing and how to hit the ball, taking my focus off my own strategy.
As any athlete knows, you just cannot win them all; there will be wins and there will be losses. What separates an ordinary athlete from an extraordinary athlete, though, is how to handle the losses. It is important to treat every opportunity as a learning experience and leave every match thinking about what was done wrong, right and what to improve on. It would be easy for me to blame my loss to Muñoz on the weather conditions, but instead, I thought of what I could have done different and I am now working on improving those things. I realize that I am capable of beating guys who play professional tournaments all year round; I just have to keep that mindset.
Until next time,