When senior Amadeo Blasco began his Longwood career in 2016, he was a player who had high potential, as he was named Big South Freshman of the Year, but needed improvement between the ears to fully cement himself as a next level player.
Director of Men’s and Women’s Tennis Jhonnatan Medina Alvarez said when he first took the job at Longwood, Blasco had all of the physical intangibles needed to be successful, with his 6-foot 2-inch frame and long arms, but played too aggressively on the court and didn’t have the capability to deal with struggle, at the time.
Alvarez said himself and Blasco had a conversation after the then sophomore dropped his first match of the 2017-18 season to a player he should have defeated, and laid the groundwork on what was to be expected from him moving forward. They began working on a daily basis to better his style, but also recognize that there are many other factors to playing the game of tennis.
"Understanding that not every time doesn’t have to be his own decisions, making sure that he can wait for the right time, understanding your opponent, interact with the different components of the wind, you know, the type of court, the moment In the match,” said Alvarez.
Alvarez added the ability at the collegiate level to give feedback to a player while on the court was also a key factor in the maturation process.
Blasco, a native of Valencia, Spain, came to Farmville as a 17-year-old and still “wasn’t fully grown up.”
He said his teammates and coaches (former head coach Pierre Tafelski and Alvarez) have served as mentors in his career and have made him both a better player and person. Their influence, along with his preparation, have now allowed for a more clear thought process and better decision making on the court.
“I would say I have like a clear idea of what I need to do in order to win, to analyze my opponents better,” said Blasco. “Because when I came I was just playing tennis, you know, now I have a plan every time. It depends on the player I play, obviously, so I can adapt.”
The plan he makes before a match has nothing to do with the ranking of the other player, Blasco noted, as he feels any player on any day can simply have a better outing. However, he did say he analyzes the type of racket the other competitor uses, the way he walks and the ways he plays.
As not important as it may seem to those who don’t play the game, Blasco said the racket the opponent uses has an effect on the game at hand due to the tension in the strings, which can affect the distance and trajectory of shots.
In late September, Blasco represented Longwood on one of the highest levels of college tennis at the Oracle ITA Masters in Malibu, California. While grabbing a win in doubles play, he was swept in individual play through the two days. Being there every step of the way, Alvarez said he saw something he had never seen before in Blascos’ career.
“He didn’t lose, he got beat. There is a different story, you know, when you go out there and you are losing because you are making bad decisions, no, he went to a match and he couldn’t understand what was happening because the other guy always had an answer for him,” said Alvarez. “And for me, that was the beginning of the development from being a great player to understand what needs to be done at the next level.”
Alvarez said Blasco is a heavily respected player by his peers, so he is often given three points before a match due to his sheer talents, but playing nationally ranked players who didn’t know who he was served as a learning curve.
When speaking on the experience himself, Blasco said he was able to further understand that each player has differing styles of play and further reiterated that the tournament strengthened the previously mentioned ability to adapt to all situations on the court.
After more preparation, two weekends ago, he took part alongside his fellow Lancer teammates in the inaugural Big South Fall Invitational.
No longer the underdog, Blasco said his goal was simply to enjoy the experience and play tennis simply with the “business as usual” mindset.
He did just that by winning all five matches, only dropping one set in the process to claim the tournament championship.
Alvarez said the Big South competition was an “emotional tournament” because Amadeo knew he was the best player in the field.
“From the beginning to an end, what I told him was ‘it’s not going to be how many winners you can make, it’s how much you are open to going to that dark place, when you are going to feel uncomfortable, you are going to feel that you have no idea what you need to do, and you are going to have to stick to what we know’,” said Alvarez.
Alvarez added he was very proud of Blasco for the performance, as it was the goal set forth for the semester.
As the graduation month of May slowly nears, Amadeo said he wants to enjoy the rest of his tennis career at Longwood by taking one match at a time, not overlooking any opponent, and giving all he can to the program.
“I look at it as one last opportunity, one last ride.”