International recruiting pays off for UW

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first_imgRicardo Martin is no ordinary tennis player. A sophomore on the University of Wisconsin’s men’s tennis team, Martin was the No. 1 player in Colombia for his age group between the ages of 12-14, and then again between the ages 16-18.After picking up tennis at age nine, Martin decided he wanted to pursue a career in professional tennis at 13. By age 14, Martin won the 14 and under International Tennis Federation (ITF) juniors title at the Yucatan Open, one of the largest juniors tournaments in the world.“I have played in South America, Europe and the U.S.,” Martin said. “I’ve played everywhere.”But after experiencing such a thrilling past, how did Martin settle on Wisconsin as the final stepping-stone before launching into his professional career?Martin’s response was blunt: “My coach convinced me.”After playing in 38 grand slam events in 11 years with the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), head coach Greg Van Emburgh has made his share of tennis contacts around the world.“If he needs a player from a foreign country, he can just call his buddies up and they can help him out,” team captain Marek Michalicka said. “He says that everybody knows him.”Van Emburgh was a friend of Martin’s ex-coach from their playing days together, and immediately recognized Martin’s potential.“Ricardo is a top 200 ITF Junior player,” Van Emburgh said. “He has played all over the world, and he has played at the highest level of junior international tennis. I think he’s well rounded and has the experience and the knowledge, more so than some of the national players that we come across and recruit.”While Martin was able to win his first three matches after joining the Badgers January of 2010, inconsistency in play resulted in only a 7-9 singles record and 3-4 doubles record last year.Michalicka said he believes Martin can overcome these inconsistencies and reach his potential with proper discipline.“If he wants to play and he wants to win, he can play really, really well,” Michalicka said. “He can play really good tennis if he wants. If he doesn’t want to play, then I feel like he doesn’t care that much. But I have the feeling that he is a good tennis player when he’s focused.”Michalicka said Martin could have done better than he actually performed last year, but coming from the Czech Republic himself, Michalicka admits it can be a difficult adjustment to come to Wisconsin from a foreign country, to which Van Emburgh agrees.“When he first came in here, he was really shy and he was getting adjusted to life in the U.S. and college life,” Van Emburgh said. “I think now his personality is starting to come out, and he’s much more vocal and he feels much more at ease being here. I think he’s going to have a good year this year.”Van Emburgh agreed that Martin can lack focus on the court at times, but noted that Martin has won five out of six tournament matches this year and is starting to concentrate more throughout matches.Van Emburgh added that if the players on the team were perfect, they wouldn’t be here in college; they would be on the pro tour. Each player has something to improve, and it just so happens that Martin has to improve his concentration on the court, but that shouldn’t take away all of his other potential and talent.Although the Badgers feature three players from foreign countries, Van Emburgh said his international recruiting practices have not caused a communication barrier for the team.“I think it’s a great mix for our guys,” Van Emburgh said. “The Americans and the internationals have one thing in common: they are a team…and they have the same mission in mind. They want to be successful, they want to do it together and it’s been great to see the guys really bond.”With such a large network of professional tennis players from around the world on hand, it comes as no surprise that Van Emburgh’s team is so diverse. However, Van Emburgh said an international roster is nothing new in collegiate tennis.“You just don’t really notice it until you start looking at rosters,” Van Emburgh said, “but I think over the past eight to 10 years, I think it has gotten more popular with the college tennis team and college system, both men and women.”According to Van Emburgh, every program in the country ranked in the top 75 now has at least three, and maybe four, international players on the team. Van Emburgh said having international players definitely adds to any program and has yielded a lot of success because of it.“I think doing international recruiting is like doing national recruiting; it goes hand in hand,” Van Emburgh said.Some minor editing errors in the original copy were corrected.last_img read more