Aug. 3, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. --- Marco Nunez and Ben Wagland arrived on campus just 48 hours ago, but the Georgia men’s tennis rookies were already making themselves at home at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex Friday morning, visiting with coaches Manuel Diaz and Will Glenn before catching the end of the Federer-Del Potro Olympics semifinal match on television in the team lounge.
Nunez and Wagland comprise two-thirds of the incoming class for Diaz and Glenn, while their classmate Austin Smith is currently in action at a tournament in Kalamazoo, Mich., and will make his way to UGA in the coming days. The threesome will start their first year of classes on Mon., Aug. 13, and are already gearing up for everything to start.
“I am excited – I want to start training, I want to start classes,” Nunez said. “I want the whole experience to start.”
Nunez, a left-hander from Monterrey, Mexico, made the decision to come to Athens without ever setting foot on campus. He said he wanted to come to Georgia ever since his youth coach told him bluntly that the best place to go in the United States to get serious about tennis and academics was UGA.
“I already knew what a great place this was, and then I met Will and Manuel at tournaments and was able to make my decision,” he said. “I just trusted the team and trusted in the university and the coaches – they’re the best.”
After growing up playing soccer and realizing “I wasn’t that good,” Nunez made the switch to tennis at age eight at the urging of his father, who enrolled him in a tennis lesson every Friday. His career took off from there, and he has since been ranked as high as No. 42 in ITF juniors while winning the USTA International Hard Court title last year.
Aside from knowing about the great tennis tradition at Georgia, Nunez knows about the success found by other Mexicans to come through the program. Antonio Ruiz won the NCAA doubles title in 2005, while Luis Flores was a part of Georgia’s last two team titles in 2007 and 2008.
“Georgia has had a couple other Mexican players on the team and they have a good reputation back home,” he said. “They both won. I want to keep that tradition going for my country and represent well.”
Wagland had a bit more trouble deciding what to do with his tennis career.
“I didn’t really know what I was going to do until about a year ago,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if I would be able to transition to the pros straight away, so I realized that college was a great decision for me to get stronger and mentally tougher.”
A native of Sydney, Australia, Wagland began tennis at age seven, playing on a court in his backyard with his older brother. After wrestling with the difficult decision of college vs. pursuing his professional aspirations immediately, a visit to UGA helped.
“I came here last September, and I was pretty sure I was coming to Georgia, but the visit was good for me,” he said. “I wanted to get to know the guys better, and I saw how good the coaches are here. This team is always competing for a national championship. I know I made a good decision, because I want to be at a school where I can get better and have a chance to take a title.”
Wagland broke into the ITA juniors top-50 for the first time in 2010, and has been ranked as high as No. 10. Also left-handed, he reached the singles quarterfinals of the International Juniors Championships and was runner-up in doubles of the Australian Open Juniors.
Next week the freshmen will begin this chapter, as they head to class and arrange practice times with their teammates before they can officially train with the coaches. For now, they’re learning the ropes from sophomore Nathan Pasha, who was in their shoes just a year ago and has shown them around on their first few days.
But in just nine short months, they’ll be trying to help the Bulldogs contend for another championship.