May 28, 2010

By Marty Gitlin
Special to NCAA.com

OBERLIN, Ohio - Recently, Marc Vartabedian approached his parents in their Southern California home and informed them that he was planning to take a trip after college graduation this summer to play tennis tournaments in France. Furthermore, he didn't know when he would return.

Or if he'd return.

Needless to say, they were taken aback. Their son is an accomplished player at the University of California-Santa Cruz, but some parents might figure the yearning to experience a foreign country and play competitive sports would take a back seat to establishing a career.

Vartabedian, however, is happy to report that his parents are taking the news as well as can be expected.

"They've both been supportive," he said. "They're tennis fans and they think it will be a great experience. But when any parents are told that their son is going to Europe and to stay there indefinitely, they're going to be a little bit hesitant."

The 22-year-old senior certainly has an adventurous side. In addition, he has exhibited a talent on the court that warrants further exploration and honing. Vartabedian and partner Brian Pybas have earned a second seed in the 2010 NCAA Division III Men's Doubles Championships and reached a quarterfinal berth Friday with a straight-set victory.

Vertabedian's tennis success these days is a natural extension of his achievements of the recent past. He played at Los Alamitos (Calif.) High School in Orange County and displayed enough ability to earn a spot at No. 1 doubles. Like a lot of players participating in this week's event at Oberlin College in Ohio, he is aggressive with racket in hand.

"I like to attack and come in (to the net)," he explains. "I mix it up. Half the time I serve-and-volley, but I like to keep the points short."

Vertabedian hasn't set a departure date for his trip to France. In fact, he's attempting to convince former UC-Santa Cruz teammates such as Max Liberty-Point and Colin Mark Griffin to join him and perhaps play some doubles there. Though the excursion with buddies would be fun and the travel exciting, Vertabedian makes it clear that improving his tennis game and challenging his competitive nature are top priorities.

"I feel like my game has gotten better the last few years and I want to keep that going," he said. "I want to go to France and see if I can play some tournaments. The competition is equivalent to what you see at men's open tournaments here."

Vertabedian knows something about European tennis. He spent about six weeks one summer a few years ago playing tennis in Spain with friend Max Ortiz.

"We had a great time," he said. "The tennis was cool and we went out at night and had a lot of fun."

Vertabedian could stay with the family of a friend in Paris this summer, but that's not set in stone. He could also compete in events in Italy and Germany, where club-level competition is strong. As for a return date to the U.S., who knows? He might return and attend graduate school and become involved in economic research. Then again, he might just stay in Europe.

"It's really open-ended," said Vertabedian, an economics major. "I thought about playing in the club system in France, which is what I originally wanted to do, but that's hard to do without earning a ranking."

And as for making France a permanent home?

"Sure," he said. "That's always a possibility."

Just wait until he runs that one by mom and dad.