With a highly-competitive spirit, sophomore transfer Eduardo Martinez continues to overcome obstacles to make dreams of playing collegiate tennis a reality
By Fedor Gaponenko, EWU Sports Information
The tennis journey for sophomore Eduardo Martinez of the Eastern Washington University men’s tennis team hasn’t been an easy one.
Growing up in Mexico City, Mexico, it would have been more typical and convenient to play soccer. Mexican public schools have soccer clubs in place, but learning to play tennis usually has to be more of a solo act.
Chances are Martinez would have never become a tennis player if not for the influence of his family. His brother and sister both played tennis and went on to earn scholarships to play in the United States.
Martinez followed in their footsteps and left his native country to attend high school at Boca Prep International School in Florida, where he could train across the street at the Chris Evert Tennis Academy.
After graduation, Martinez earned a scholarship to play tennis at Jacksonville University. But it was a tumultuous season, as the tennis program at JU would be cut at the end of the year. The adversity didn’t seem to bother his game though, as Martinez made the 2012 Atlantic Sun Conference All-Freshman team in 2012.
With a strong desire to continue his collegiate playing career, Martinez transferred across the country to Eastern Washington. In his first season with the Eagles, he has paid immediate dividends to the team.
Martinez played 15 of 17 matches this year alongside Joseph Cohen at No. 1 doubles and was Eastern’s steady No. 2 in singles. He had recorded an impressive winning record of 9-6 in singles play this season, that is, before his tennis career took another hit.
In a dual last weekend against Sacramento State, his flourishing 2013 season came to a premature end when Martinez dislocated his knee during his match at No. 1 doubles.
Despite the disappointing end to the season, Martinez will use his competitive fire to persevere and come back stronger and better next year - just as he has done throughout life.
This weekend, Martinez will be watching from the sidelines, as his teammates battle Montana and Portland State in the final two matches of the 2013 regular season. The Eagles take on UM on Friday (April 12) at 12 p.m., before facing PSU on Saturday (April 13) at 2 p.m.
Growing up, how did you get started playing tennis and what influenced you to pursue this sport?
“My brother and sister both played tennis and they both received athletic scholarships in the United States at Northern Illinois University. I followed in their footsteps.”
What was it that made you want to attend Boca Prep International school in Florida?
“I was part of the Chris Evert Tennis Academy and they have a relationship with Boca Prep for international students to obtain a visa. I had to attend school or else I wouldn’t be able to train in the country. Boca Prep is across the street.”
Are there any major differences between tennis in Mexico versus the United States?
“There aren’t any big differences with the training or style of play. Probably the biggest difference is in Mexico, they don’t promote a lot of sports outside of soccer. In schools, they don’t promote it either. In the United States, there is a big opportunity to play against other schools and that is what I wanted to do.”
You had a successful first year at the collegiate level playing at Jacksonville University – what do you remember most from that season?
“I remember our first match. It was against the University of Central Florida and the day before that, our coach told us they were going to cut the tennis program. It was rough season, but we had some good wins and we made it through. That first match was the most memorable because we just found out about the cut and we didn’t know what to expect.”
When the tennis program was cut at Jacksonville, what made you decide to transfer across the country to Eastern?
“I was talking with other schools and they seemed interested, but Coach Haworth seemed very interested in me. I sort of just played it by ear. I didn’t get a chance to visit or see the school before I decided. The first time I came here was to stay.”
So, what do you think of Easter? How are you adjusting to the climate and campus after spending your previous years in Mexico and Florida?
“I like it here. Jacksonville was a really small school with only 3,000 students. Here, it’s a bit bigger and I feel more respected here than in Jacksonville. It feels like they just tossed the tennis program, but here I feel like they care about the program and want it get better year by year. I like Eastern, but I’m still getting used to the climate. I’m not a big fan of cold weather, but I play it as it comes.”
What do you think of the competition in the Big Sky, and West-Coast tennis in general, as most of the non-conference teams you play are also from around this area?
“The [NCAA] Division I opponents are tough. Everyone knows how to play, and it’s a tough conference. There are no players that are easy to beat.”
You had winning record in doubles and singles this year, playing at the No. 1 and 2 spots. What do you feel are your strengths that have enabled you to have success at the top of the lineup?
“My strengths are always working hard and putting the team first. Putting the team first has been my key. Competing for the team makes it easier than competing for myself. It’s different from junior tournaments when you’re competing for yourself and have no one else. It’s a different feeling to play for the team and it makes you want to win more.”
Coach Haworth has tabbed you as one of the most competitive players he’s ever had in the program. Do you view yourself as ultra-competitive?
“I’m competitive, I hate losing. If someone is going to beat me they have to make me miss because I won’t give up. That’s what I’ve been working on to never give up and fight for every single point until something works out.”
What are some of your goals for the future here at Eastern?
“I want to graduate with a good GPA and hopefully help the team win conference.”
You are one of nine underclassmen on the roster this year. What is it like being part of such a young team?
“We don’t have a lot of experience. Kyle Koetje is our only senior and he has a lot of experience in singles, doubles and all the matches. We are trying to get better by pushing each other, but also keeping our expectations realistic.”
How has your relationship grown with all your teammates throughout the season?
“I think it’s like a big family. I’m far away from Mexico so the team is all the family I have here. I fight for them on the court and we have fun off the court. It’s a fun group.”